Cornelius
NHK Design Ah


4.0
excellent

Review

by MisterTornado CONTRIBUTOR (47 Reviews)
February 6th, 2013 | 19 replies | 2,621 views


Release Date: 01/23/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Charming, loveable, and sophisticated music for a world that’s as forever reaching as an innocent imagination

Growing up is tough. Dealing with the inevitability of getting old is one of life's great struggles. Luckily, to temporarily deal with our once young and (blissfully) ignorant minds being slowly chiseled to stone by the cold hand of reality, there's this thing called "music". If you put your ear up close to it, sometimes you can feel this thing called "nostalgia". Since his 1997 critical breakthrough Fantasma, Cornelius has been cranking out this "nostalgia" stuff, as well turning heads with his quirky take on pop music, incorporating elements such as electronica, psychedelic pop, lounge, bossa nova, and sample-based plunderphonics into his songs. With healthy comparisons over the years to Beck, The Beach Boys, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Primal Scream, Cornelius has paved a wonderfully inviting and heavenly scented yellow brick road for those unfamiliar with the world of Japanese pop music. From the mind of a man with his head high above the clouds, Cornelius's latest album (and first in seven years) finds the kooky auteur more elevated than ever, looking down on the world from his child-like, cardboard castle on the moon, gently waving us upward to join him on another whimsical adventure.

NHK Design Ah marks a new sonic venture for Cornelius, into the wonderful world of incidental music. The album is the soundtrack to an educative short series titled "Design Ah", which airs on NHK, Japan's public broadcasting network (think kawaii-PBS). Essentially, the show aims to "rethink everyday objects from a design perspective in order to educate children and adults on the joys of design". D'aw, how cute. The music here is set-up with the same rigid, architectural mindset aimed for both kids and adults alike, spanning a series of short 25-track bursts (usually never crossing the 2 minute mark) over the course of 37 delectable minutes of super-fun-ultra-happy electro-midi-sugar-pop instrumentals. Opening the neatly fastened box is "Design Ah No Theme", showered in fragments of vocal Oh / Ah's that could pass for an imported version of the Rugrats theme, under a lite-whistles and infectious hand claps.

A robotic text-to-speech count’s out "1-2-3-4-5" around the hula hoop-funk of "Design Kazoe Ultra", emulating a quirky preschool numbers lesson. The pre-rendered glitch of chopped up designs like "Katachi No Shiki", "Karada No Katachi", and "Ana" formulate code similar to Computer World era-Kraftwerk and lullaby renditions of Oval's 94 Disknot. Other designs like "Maru To Shikaku" and "Color Magic" act as bite-size versions of the sparkling pop songs Cornelius is tailored for. Further designs experiment, like a child's first game of Mouse Trap, heard on the angelic vocal drone of "Long Clutch C" and the lovely backwards floating swan-song "Omottetan To Chigau". Some of the most beautiful moments on the album can be heard in the warm folky daydreams of "Dessin Ah" and "Yajirushi Song", strumming folktronic paradise as the cascading leaves of fall begin to gently change color.

In terms of sound design, video games play a huge role on the dream-like impression the album expresses throughout. In particular, NHK Design Ah resembles the colorful, over-saturated game worlds of Katamari Damacy and Animal Crossing. Listening to these charming mini-compositions is like hearing K.K. Slider strum his MIDI-acoustic blues, or collecting a set of musical Gyroids in your cozy little den and lying back to hear their bleep-bloop melodies. The difference here is those delicate jingles are fleshed out into living, breathing works of art, held together by vast amounts of subtle instrumentation and an expert balance of catchy, innocent, funky, quirky, and nostalgic moods. Most faithfully, NHK Design Ah, like the TV show it curates, is designed to evoke the child inside all of us. Transporting the listener back to a time of wide-eyed wonder and child-like innocence, painting an aural canvas of charming, loveable, and sophisticated music for a world that’s as forever reaching as an innocent imagination.



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user ratings (6)
Chart.
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
February 6th 2013



4507 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Likely to be one of the most charming albums of 2013.

Sample: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=oI0YyKnIzgY
Sample: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjBDb_qmXAA

Read more about the project here: http://www.spoon-tamago.com/2011/06/21/nhk%E2%80%99s-new-designy-educational-tv-show-design-ah/

GiaNXGX
February 6th 2013



4867 Comments


Point is fantastic so I better check this one out. 小山田 圭吾 always inspires me to prepare my
acoustic guitar with twisted metals and such and make weird sounds, for some reason. He isn't Keith
Rowe but I meann....


Havey
February 6th 2013



9617 Comments


omg

Point is fantastic so I better check this one out [2]

I can tell you're really enjoying 2013 so far, so many 4s

Digging: Cecil Taylor - Dark to Themselves

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
February 6th 2013



4507 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Agreed, Point is wonderful.

"小山田 圭吾 always inspires me to prepare my acoustic guitar with twisted metals and such and make weird sounds, for some reason. He isn't Keith Rowe but I meann...."

Haha, nope he sure isn't. Child-like Keith Rowe?

"I can tell you're really enjoying 2013 so far, so many 4s"

Yup, been a fantastic year so far. Will only get better (probably)

GiaNXGX
February 6th 2013



4867 Comments


Indeed. How do you keep up with so many new releases, aagh. Well, latest 2013 album I've jammed is Marcus Fischer's On Shore, sorta noisy electro-acoustic ambient/collagy drone hybrid. Gonna jam Point asap by the way---

#Tornado4staff

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
February 6th 2013



4507 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

1) Assemble team of blogger underlings that are willing to work for little to no pay to retrieve new release information
2) Promise them you'll fill a void in their heart and say "I love you" to them.
3) Back out of promise each time until inevitable suicide.
4) Find new underling

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
February 6th 2013



4507 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Had no idea Marcus Fischer had a new album out. Collected Dust was lovely

YankeeDudel
February 6th 2013



9305 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

tornado for staff

Digging: DJ Spooky - Songs Of A Dead Dreamer

FelixCulpa
February 15th 2013



1237 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is really neat.

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
February 15th 2013



4507 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Makes me wanna dust off my Gamecube and play Animal Crossing

FelixCulpa
February 16th 2013



1237 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I get the connection to animal crossing (Not played it myself but I've seen it being played). Feels
like it could be the soundtrack to some freeware game or something as well. My minds drifts to the
game Botanicula. Every played that Tornado? That games soundtrack is pretty awesome as well.

Also have you ever played the grow series flash games? An amazingly inventive Japanese game series
that is an
absolute joy: http://www.eyezmaze.com/

FelixCulpa
February 16th 2013



1237 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Overall this album is quite the pleasant experience. I feel some songs to be a little annoying and I feel probably don't work as well without it's visual counterpart but the album was definitively worth the listen.

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
February 16th 2013



4507 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah it definitely could be the soundtrack of some little indie game out there. I've seen those type
of games have some pretty awesome soundtracks (ex: Disaterpeace's soundtrack for FEZ / Lifeformed's
soundtrack for Fastfall).

I can see some of the more stripped down jingles coming as slightly annoying, but I always think of
the musical Gyroids from Animal Crossing set-up in your cozy little house making bleep-bloop melodies.
So it's this weird feeling of nostalgia all around.

FelixCulpa
February 17th 2013



1237 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Disaterpeace's soundtrack for FEZ" That soundtrack is amazing. I really want the game to come out for pc so I can play it myself.

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
February 20th 2013



4507 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Is the game fun?

FelixCulpa
February 21st 2013



1237 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

FEZ? From what I gather it seems pretty darn awesome. Also with an art style like that plus that soundtrack I can only imagine I'd enjoy just playing it. But like I said I've never played it but I hope it gets ported to the pc.

Rev
March 3rd 2013



9380 Comments


just stumbled across this, really great shit


good review mang


also holy shit dude congrats on contributor!

kingsoby1
Emeritus
March 9th 2013



4940 Comments


this is cool, but i'd rather listen to a real lp of his

MisterTornado
Contributing Reviewer
March 15th 2013



4507 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Lol, it does sort of feel like a side-collabrative project compared to his other albums, but there's
charm in that. Now I have to move to japan so I can watch this superhappyroboglitchtime TV show...



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