New releases from Cornelius, Paul McLaney, The Black Seeds, Ciaran McMeeken and Blessed Relief.
Tender and slightly bereft, a Japanese genius’s new album hints at longing for lost love, as he explores the musical territory he’s made his own.
CORNELIUS MELLOW WAVES (Spunk)
Originally pegged by Western media as the Japanese Beck, Keigo Oyamada’s early work as Cornelius was all outrageous cut-ups. Then, in 2002, he made one of the most perfect albums ever: Point.
A true work of introverted genius, this indescribable landmark used experimental techniques, and taking a fine surgeon’s knife to deconstruct and create anew, it drew on organic samples, zen-like repetition, brief irruptions of metal thrash and Brazilian cadences to forge a unique type of pop music.
Then in 2006 came its anticipated sequel, Sensuous, which turned out to be essentially a more high-fidelity recapitulation of the same concept. It’s only taken another 11 years to produce a third work, and some are condemning it as more of the same.
What the critics forget, however, is that this is a musical universe that Cornelius himself has created. Why wouldn’t he want to stay there, exploring the territory that he defined?
Although many of the words are Japanese, I would guess by the tender, slightly bereft, almost fragile feeling on many of its songs that Mellow Waves is a break-upand-move-on suite of songs. Certainly, there’s a sense of longing running through them, from Oyamada’s sweet vocals to the delicate layering of instrumentation.
Yes, he’s using many of the same tricks — the finger- picked, pleasingly coruscating guitar lines, the modular keyboard sound — but the skill with which he interlocks the various parts is what makes it special. With Mellow Waves, the devil is in the detail, and what might at first seem like a simple, spritely piece of MOR pop can surprise with a mid-section that jumps right out and forces a major rethink.
IF CORNELIUS SPINS A MUSICAL WEB THAT APPEALS, THEN CHECK OUT RYUICHI SAKAMOTO’S EQUALLY ZEN-LIKE 1985 ALBUM, ESPERANTO.
ABOVE— Cornelius employs many of his past tricks on Mellow Waves.