Review Summary: Dark, brooding and heavy, 69/96 proves to be one of Cornelius's most underrated albums in his catalog.
Cornelius is an artist that literally needs no introduction. Originally a member of the breakthrough Shibuya-kei duo Flipper's Guitar, Cornelius eventually embarked on a solo career once the group split in 1991. With an extensive career, Cornelius managed to experiment with various genres in his solo career: including alternative rock, electronica, ambient, experimental, and hard rock. And yes, I said hard rock. On Cornelius's second studio album, 1995's "69/96", Cornelius literally blooms as a talented solo artist, and abandons much of his previous Shibuya-kei efforts, and instead goes on an unfamiliar, yet daring, path of artistic hard rock. Needless to say, the efforts prove to be wonderful.
"Moon Walk" starts off with screwy, squeaked guitars, and eventually morphs into a sludgy, brooding tone, with Cornelius's vocals amped up to their max. The song's sludgy tone signifies Cornelius's initial spark as an artist daring to go places where other artists fear, and actually sheds much of his Shibuya past for a more mature, dark sound. "Volunteer Ape Man (Disco)" has a nice, slick tone to it, with bubbling bass and staticy, flickered guitars echoing all over the song's canvas. After about a minute of cooled instrumentation, Cornelius's vocals come on, fuzzed-out with a nice bite of coolness. The song's impressive dark sound goes wonderfully with the album's dark tone. "How Do You Feel?" is the album's standout moment, with psychedelic-like guitars and poppy vocals from Cornelius, which briefly revisit his Shibuya past. The song's psych-influenced sound has the potential to be an awkward moment in the album's lineup, which it kind of is, but Cornelius's daring effort to combine the two worlds of psychedelic and hard rock prove to be too remarkable to not admire. "Last Night in Africa" revisits the album's familiar biting sound, and the song's chugged sound proves to be a perfect fit for the album's angst-driven sound.
"Blow My Mind" is one of the album's most experimental moments, with almost circus-like melodies embedded within the song's surface, chaotic organ-stabbing and fuzzy vocals from Cornelius. A screwy moment, "Blow My Mind" proves to be one of the most entertaining songs on the album, with tons of livelihood bouncing all throughout the song. "69/96 Girl Meets Cassette" is a collaboration with fellow Shibuya pioneer Kahimi Karie, and has a reggae-like inspired rhythm, with pedal steel guitars echoing throughout Karie's light melodic croons. A nice, lighter tune from the more pop-friendly side of Cornelius. "Rock/96" is a beautiful display of psychedelic-influenced pop rock, and Cornelius's buzzing vocals go absolutely wonderful with the song's galactic psychdelica. Without a doubt one of the album's strongest and most memorable moments. The album then closes off with "World's End Humming (Reprise in Hawaii)", which has a tropical appeal to it, and consists of bubblegum lightness, with Cornelius simply singing alongside the Hawaiian-inspired song. Nothing much to say, and it's kind of an oddball way to close such a dark, mature album. Yet, on the other hand, it is just another example of Cornelius's fearless ventures as an artist.
In short, "69/96" by Cornelius proves to live up to its ambitious path, and was the initial proof of Cornelius's cunning talent as a solo artist. Although sadly underrated among his less heavy material, "69/96" is a damn good release by the breakthrough Japanese musician, full of acidic rhythm and a biting attitude to be reckoned with.