Cornelius ‘Mellow Waves’ (Rostrum Records)
Always make sure you listen properly to music, folks. For some reason, I couldn’t get my head round this album when I first heard it – yet now, it’s on again for the second time today, and I can’t figure out why I couldn’t connect with it at first.
Cornelius is Japanese multi-instrumentalist and producer Keigo Oyamada, who created his creative alter-ego Cornelius as an homage to the Planet of the Apes. His Wikipedia entry observes that he is ‘sometimes categorised as an ‘acquired taste.’ Well; get in line, folks – and if you haven’t put the time aside to start acquiring this taste, in time you’ll be glad you did so.
It’s now twenty years since the release of Fantasma, the album that first got him noticed outside of his native Japan, and drew comparisons with Brian Wilson and Beck. This is his first studio album since 2006’s Sensuous, though in that time he has busied himself with other projects, including soundtrack work, remixes and being part of the Plastic Ono Band.
Mellow Waves is an appropriate album title, for the most part. The most part being that there are a lot of gorgeously mellow sounds within. If it seems odd that waves might be mellow, it’s an example of just how skilled he is with sound. The album is about getting older and all his childhood idols dying off – Prince, Michael Jackson, and David Bowie.. ‘Surfing on Sine Wave pt 2′ is perhaps a fine example of why he may delight and confuse in equal measure. Sure, parts of the song could be described as chilled electronica, but not all. ‘Helix/Spiral’ lives up to it’s name, a track that seems to be purely mathematical as it makes its way across your stereo into your brain.
Cornelius is not someone to be easily pigeonholed – the final two tracks on the album ‘The Rain Song’ and ‘Crepuscule’ are almost purely acoustic in their approach. This mixture of styles on an album could be fatally flawed ambition in lesser hands, yet he pulls it off with aplomb, a master craftsman. Whilst cataloguing records in a store can be tricky – and I write as a former record store clerk – the glorious mixture of eastern avant-electronica meets krautrock with jazz, bossa nova and folk for good measure is generally not a section that even the hippest music stores have (probably because the staff these days are too busy plaiting their beards and thinking about microbreweries and limited cassette releases. But I digress.) There are two notable collaborators here – Lush’s Miki Berenyi for the lovely ‘The Spell Of A Vanishing Loneliness’ (she’s a distant cousin), and also Shintaro Sakamoto, who wrote the lyrics for ‘Dear Future Person’ and ‘If You’re Here.’
Always make sure you listen to music properly, folks.