The master of headphone symphonies returns with his best album since 1997's Fantasma. Keigo Oyamada's Cornelius continues the Shibuya-Kei ethos of pastiche mundi on Waves. Odd time signatures, jazz motifs, and well-tempered slow jams permeate through the 10-track album. Twenty years removed from Cornelius' masterpiece, what it lacks in frenetic playfulness it makes up in melody and orchestration.
On his first proper album in over a decade, the meticulous pop experimenter known as Cornelius arrives floating on the promised Mellow Waves of its title. Gentle guitars and soft-hued synths sustain a mood of a familiar but far-flung locale: a veneer of artistic maturity that camouflages the brilliant and ambitious playfulness of the 48-year-old former guitarist Keigo Oyamada's music. Known for the wild, kaleidoscopic pastiche of 1997's Fantasma, Oyamada's Cornelius continues to specialize in creating moments of startling fun, even if his sonic palette isn't always as show-offy and sugar-coated as it once was.
Is Mellow Waves Fantasma-level good? Nope. Few albums are. But it is a welcome return nonetheless. All through the 1980s, Japan’s avant-garde took jazz fusion and proggy approaches to pop composition and redeemed those genre’s typically grandiloquent tendencies with a rare and winning restraint.
Mellow Waves by Cornelius is a good album. It's dreamy and creates a sense of fluid space, caught between energetic krautrock style and something more meditative. Maybe that's just pop music for you, but I found myself craving the guitar riffs to break up the saccharine of the continual use of bleepy synthesiser. 'Sometime/ Someplace' features a beautiful animation video of musicians and other figures walking through outer space, perfectly synchronised with the musical rhythms, which are simultaneously smooth and explosive.
True to its name, Mellow Waves, the new album from Japanese music-maker Cornelius (née Keigo Oyamada) -- his first North American release in over a decade -- is a supremely chill affair. But it's also a fairly forgettable one, feeling less like the rollercoaster of sounds and ideas he first became known for in the West, and more like a short sit in the shallows as the tide carries the water away.
In recent years, the turn-of-the-century pop phenom has spent most of his time collaborating with artists like Yoko Ono and J-pop singer Salyu, or composing soundtracks for works like the recent anime reboot of Ghost in the Shell. That cinematic flair is definitely here on tracks like the tremolo-heavy "Surfing on Mind Wave Pt.
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