Album Review – Cornelius

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 ApesHis 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.



A track for today #46: Ummagma

‘They’ say you should never meet your heroes.

Fortunately for Ummagma – singer Shauna McLarnan and multi-instrumentalist Alexander Kretov – were introduced by a mutual friend to Robin Guthrie, guitarist in the Cocteau Twins and co-founder of Bella Union label. The result was that Robin was so taken with the track ‘Lama’ that not only did he remix the track (which originally appeared on their 2012 album Anitigravity) but added his own parts to the mix. It’s the lead track on Ummagma’s forthcoming EP LCD.

The EP also features another legend from the dreampop-shoegazing world: Dean Garcia of Curve fame. Shauna McLarnan explains: ‘I grew up listening to Cocteau Twins, Curve, and so many bands from the 4AD and Creation labels, and then later introduced them to my husband [Alexander Kretov].. He learned of them late, having been born in the USSR. We feel incredibly honoured that Robin Guthrie and Dean Garcia have shaped several of our tracks as they personally envision them.”

Check out Lama below. It’s a particularly lovely, dreamy piece of work that begs to be played again and again.



South London rapper Reece Robertson is 23 years old, and has unveiled his new track ‘Shot In The Dark.’ His style is most reminiscent of The Streets, mixing hip-hop with ballads quite effortlessly on the track.

The video’s lovely, taking in London panoramas as he reflects on splitting up with his partner and seeing less of his daughter. Reflective, and made all the more effective by the minimalist backing. It’s interesting to compare this track to his previous single, his first official release ‘Lifelong Love’ released last year. That track’s more upbeat – and suggests that he’s capable of turning his hand to quite a few styles in the urban genre.

Worth six minutes of your time.



The return of the Waterboys

It’s now well over three decades since The Waterboys released their debut, self-titled album. While there are still those who just associate them with the epic ‘Whole Of The Moon’ single or the lush folk of the Fisherman’s Blues album, the reality is that Mike Scott and his team have always explored new avenues of music.

Their latest album is entitled Out Of All This Blue and will be released on September 8. Recorded in Dublin and Tokyo and produced by Scott,  the press release states that it’s their ‘most exploratory recording yet, comprising 23 songs with Mike Scott’s trademark sharp lyrics set to pop music with echoes of classic R&B, country, soul and funk, underpinned by modern hip-hop production values and rhythms.’

So it appears with the first track to be released from the album. It’s unusual on the first listen and pretty damn addictive by the third. No trumpets or fiddles here – rather Mike Scott has turned in a proper pop song that owes more to American r’n’b of the last twenty years or so, than anything he’s previously released.It sounds like it’s going to give us a good hint of what is on the album, as Scott states: “Out Of All This Blue is 2/3 love and romance, and 1/3 stories and observations. I knew from the beginning I wanted to make a double album, and lucky for me – and I hope the listener – the songs just kept coming, and in pop colors.”

Check it out below:

The album tracklisting is as follows:

1. Do We Choose Who We Love
2. If I Was Your Boyfriend
3. Santa Fe
4. If The Answer Is Yeah
5. Love Walks In
6. New York I Love You
7. The Connemara Fox
8. The Girl in the Window Chair
9. Morning Came Too Soon
10. Hiphopstrumental 4 (Scatman)
11. The Hammerhead Bar
12. Mister Charisma
13. Nashville, Tennessee
14. Man, What a Woman
15. Girl in a Kayak
16. Monument
17. Kinky’s History Lesson
18. Skyclad Lady
19. Rokudenashiko
20. Didn’t We Walk on Water
21. The Elegant Companion
22. Yamaben
23. Payo Payo Chin

The band are on tour in the British Isles this autumn, and play the following dates:

October 18 – Bristol Colston Hall
October 19 – Birmingham Symphony Hall
October 21 – London Palladium
October 22 – Manchester Opera House
October 23 – Sage Gateshead
October 24 – Glasgow SEC Armadillo
October 26 – Dublin 3Arena


Album Review – James Elkington

James Elkington -‘Wintres Woma.’ (Paradise of Bachelors)

According to the press release, ‘Wintres Woma’ is Old English for ‘the sound of winter.’ Given that this is a very summery feeling record with both an associated and unassociated warmth that runs right through, this might seem slightly incongruous at first. Yet on further reflection it starts to make a little more sense. It’s a phrase that James Elkington found appealing when he encountered it in a book about the historical English imagination and informs his debut solo album.

Born and brought up in England but based in Chicago, Elkington has an impressive working pedigree – with a list that includes Richard Thompson, Laetitia Sadier and Jeff Tweedy. The album was recorded at Wilco’s loft in the city, and features him playing the vast majority of instruments.

Though he reportedly denies that this is folk music (right: and Siouxsie and Nick Cave were never goths, The Strokes had never heard Television and Tori Amos wasn’t really familiar with Kate Bush’s music. Uh-huh. Think we may have to agree to disagree. But I digress.) it certainly draws upon the work of artists who have come from that tradition. To compare his guitar playing to the likes of Nick Drake, Bert Jansch and the aforementioned-Thompson is not pigeon-holing but meant as a compliment. This is a strong collection of songs that draw from his own experiences and along with the technical expertise of his guitar-playing, his voice fits perfectly.

The album gets off to a particularly strong start with ‘Make It Up.’ It’s worth noting that the press release described this as ‘pointedly recount[ing] the time he almost crashed his car trying to get to a séance on time (mostly fiction).’ The upright bass from Nick Macri as a counterpoint to Elkington’s fast fingerpicking recall Richard Thompson and Danny Thompson bass and guitar work on Nick Drake’s debut Five Leaves Left. It’s undoubtedly the strongest song on this album but that’s not to suggest that there are not reasons for listening further. Other highlights on the album include the baroque-sounding minute and a half instrumental ‘Parting Glass,’ ‘Wading The Vapors’ with an impressive ‘cello part played by Tomeka Reid and the epic ‘Greatness Yet To Come’ which dissolves into a reverie that sounds like shoegazing had been envisaged as an acoustic rather than electric mindset. Reid and Macri are veterans of Chicago’s improvised music scene, along with percussionist Tim Daisy and string-player Macie Stewart; their contribution is not simply filling out but can be seen, and more importantly heard as helping Elkington to realise his vision.

Whilst this is an easy album to enjoy, it is one that needs attention focused upon it, rather than simply providing background music. This listener benefited from listening to it without the headphones and not reading at the same time. As with music where thougt has gone into its making, it can take time to properly get to grips with the recording. While it won’t be for everyone, those who succumb to its charms will feel it has been a worthwhile process.


Wintres Woma is out now on Paradise of Bachelors

Presenting…Holy Moly & the Crackers

As always, the sheer amount of submissions in the inbox overwhelms me.

But a few weeks ago, I got a an email asking about premiering the new album from Holy Moly and the Crackers. The band were a new name to me – but once I’d heard it, I was glad I had listened. They describe themselves as Gypsy folk-rock and they’ve delieverd a solid four star album with a pretty distinctive sound.

I wrote a piece premiering the album Salem over at God Is In The TV, which you can check out by following here.

In case you need your appetite wheting, here are some of the videos:





Album Review – Dominic Waxing Lyrical

Dominic Waxing Lyrical -‘Rural Tonic.’ (Tenement Records)

There’s something quite refreshing about the songwriting of Dominic Harris. In as much as anything, it’s the way he thinks and writes out of the box. In a musical world with too many indentikit pop stars,and landfill indie failing to offer the alternative it thinks it does, this is much needed. Following on from 2015’s rather fine Woodland Casual album, here he delivers another collection of off-kilter, quirky but really rather wonderful songs from the Edinburgh man.

It’s a manic – yet an extremely literate album. It’s perhaps a gamble starting the album with ‘King’ – perhaps the most impenetrable song on the album, with its descending chromatic scales played glissando and frankly bonkers lyrics, of which ‘cross my arse with silver! Crown my cock with pearls!’ (sic) are the easiest to understand. Yet while repeated plays over several months haven’t quite revealed what the hell he’s going on about, it does seem to make sense (well, sort of) within the context of the album.

While many singer-songwriters will have a backing band of some description, what adds to the different flavour of this album is that there are, essentially, two. There’s Mr. McFall’s Chamber – who do much of the orchestral parts, and 17 Seconds favourites Aberfeldy. So the former bring alive the likes of ‘King’ and ‘Laika’; the melodic genius of the latter work their magic on tracks like ‘Susan Sontag’ and ‘River Styx.’

The long-defunct Melody Maker magazine described him as ‘DIY-baroque-folk’ which remains spectacularly accurate. A tonic for the troops, then? Indeed, and the rest of us.


Rural Tonic is out now on Tenement Records