Review Summary: Japanese producer/musician makes an eclectic album that sounds like a bastardized version of Beck.
By the time New Music Machine
has kicked in, I know exactly why I am listening to Cornelius. Despite having read about Cornelius’s 1998 release, Fantasma
, in an issue of Magnet, I was only mildly expectant of finding the claims that said magazine made (“Pet Sounds made anime”) true. Yet, three songs in and I am already singing his praise. The after mentioned New Music Machine sounds like what Beck would play if Beck had been born with a Japanese accent and utilized a noticeable My Bloody Valentine influence. Its guitars, drenched with fuzz and other effects reminiscent of a more lo-fi Dinosaur Jr, are played atop the kind of inorganic drums that call the rest of the album home. Cornelius’s vocals are simple and far from show offy. His performance in the song’s choruses, while subtle enough to bear a slight resemblance to that of Kevin Shields, are still catchy enough to help the album sell more than a half-million copies in Japan.
The whole of Fantasma has a very cut-and-paste approach. Magoo Opening
features lines from Planet of the Apes (the movie Cornelius took his moniker from) as well as other cartoonish samples and, not surprisingly, doesn’t sound anything like New Music Machine. And, while tracks like Clash
and Star Fruits Surf Rider
may be similar in their mellowness, the latter’s dense, yet up-beat and ultra catchy chorus being an album highlight, overall not much on Fantasma has a similar sound. Sure, Cornelius’s accented vocals, Beach Boys harmonies and fuzzed-out guitar tones are present on more than one track but, as an album, Fantasma sounds like someone searching through an assortment of college radio stations, not one of which I wouldn’t kill to have on my dial, and listening to only a track at a time,.
Another definite highlight God Only Knows
, clocking in at well over 7 minutes, is the album’s longest and one of the few to go far over the 4 minute mark. The song’s trip-hop esque verses are overtly mellow and are contrasted by soaring, catchy choruses and a spectacular, sample-heavy bridge section. One could say the album ends on a high-note, but in reality that high note stretches from the very first track Mic Check
to the last, the brief title track Fantasma
, and only falters for a moment in 2010
. Overall, Fantasma, the album, is the antithesis of boring, and sounds like something more modern acts like The Go! Team and Girl Talk spent quite a bit of time listening to. With his long list of Indie influences and skills as both a musician (he played all of the instruments on Fantasma) and songwriter, Cornelius has created a worthwhile listen for any Indie fan not afraid of dancing.