by / August 17th, 2017 /

Cornelius – Mellow Waves

 1/5 Rating

(Rostrum Records)

Sometimes you just have to take an album title at face value. On his sixth record proper, and first in eleven years barring remixes and soundtracks, Keigo Oyamada couldn’t be more upfront in his intentions. Cornelius has been a quietly significant influencer with his subtly evolving musical meanderings for over two decades now, early on earning himself comparisons to Beck and putting his own slant on the lush pop music of the ‘60s, tempered by his fledgling days with shibuya-kei band Flipper’s Guitar. That particular musical movement proved a crucial playground for Cornelius’ imaginative progression through soul/jazz, electronica and techno, sampling, and back around to folk and blues, all processed through the Japanese musician’s eclectic ear.

Where 2006’s Sensuous was a more dance-oriented affair, this pulls things back to the chill-out room as a slow and deliberate kick/snare beat opens ‘If You’re Here’, and an unobtrusive but idiosyncratic guitar solo skips through the synth. Cornelius stops just shy of flatlining the BPMs with that initial drum intro – an immediate clue to what lies beneath the surface of his mellow waves.

This is an album that’s as at home referencing P-Funk or The Minutemen as it is Bacharach or Gainsbourgh. A fantastic ‘Sometime / Someplace’ takes things out of the 4/4 realm, seeming to tip a nod to Deerhoof and boasting a free-form jazz sax-wail solo. As the album progresses it almost imperceptibly mutates – trip-hop into jazz-inflected funk/soul and post-rock, through ambient Eno-esque territory and across low-key psych rock.

Following from the Ghost In The Shell Arise soundtrack’s ‘…Pt. 1’, ‘Surfing on Mind Wave Pt. 2’ drones through oscillating synths, muted vocal chatter and organic lapping that harks back to 2001’s Point album. It stands in contrast to ‘Helix / Spiral’ and its robotic recurrence of the title over a stuttering 8-bit-style effect. ‘Mellow Yellow Feel’ proves a high-water mark as a minimalist, looped two-note rhythm gently flourishes from this base; becoming more intricate, cartwheeling around the melody before returning to form.

In its final stages, the album takes a dip into gentle, woozy psychedelia with ‘The Spell of a Vanishing Loveliness’ (“The sweetest child/ She is the apple of our eye”), and an almost folky slant as ‘The Rain Song’ and ‘Crépuscule’ usher us out. Where a sense of eclecticism prevails in the album’s front end, however nuanced, these concluding songs complement one another; softly picked guitar notes and chiming motifs, until the latter leads things instrumentally into the twilight. Cornelius’ latest trip has brought us all to a place of languid pleasure; a Lotus-land to live and lie reclined under sonic sedation. You get the feeling, though, that he won’t repose too long in this particular milieu before embarking on his next musical voyage.

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