Nick Bollinger discusses the first album in a decade from Japanese electro-pop collagist Cornelius.
When music sounds strange and exotic it’s tempting to credit that strangeness to the geographical location where it originated. But perhaps the music would sound strange and exotic in that place as well.
Mellow Waves is the first album in more than a decade by the Japanese musician Keigo Oyamada, better known as Cornelius. And as ever, it sounds like the music of somewhere that didn’t exist, at least until Cornelius dreamed it up.
Though it’s recognisably Cornelius, this album is also a bit different from anything he’s done before. It has its own particular mood, which is summed up in its title: Mellow Waves. Mellow Waves is mellow, certainly by Cornelius’s standards. He seems to be taking his cues from the Brazilian music he’s obviously been paying attention to. Sometimes the influence is applied directly, with samba beats and lots of ninth chords; other times it’s more of a suggestion, like the duet with vocalist Miki Berenyi, formerly of British shoegazers Lush, on a song with another perfect mood-summarising title: “The Spell Of A Vanishing Loveliness”.
Cornelius tends to be characterised as a synth dude, but his records are actually full of good guitar. On ‘If You’re Here’, the slow-jam that opens the album, he plays jazzy rings around the off-kilter rhythm.
Then there’s the way the cool Latin groove of ‘Sometime/Someplace’ is unexpectedly ripped open by a squally outburst of fret-flaying Frank Zappa would have been proud of.
But more often the guitar just adds to the mellow, and that can be lovely too – like the track he calls ‘Crepuscule’, which gives the album its quietly abstract coda.
Oyamada has talked about his aim of creating “a world without grids” and I think I can hear it. This is music without straight lines; where melodies, chords and rhythms roll and flow. You can let this music carry you, or you can just bathe in its currents of sound, as it takes you somewhere you didn’t know existed, and perhaps didn’t exist before.
Mellow Waves is available on Rostrum