Review Summary: All your favorite things about music in one album!
I was born in the year 2000. In 2010, I was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD). This means that I was never one to fully appreciate genres like ambient, drone, or some variations of noise music. I could never sit down and listen to something like that without the sense of boredom overcoming me. Since the turn of the millenium, electronic music has begun exploring new grounds of experimentation that appeal to this hyperactive demographic. Artists like Secret Mommy
make incredible, intricate pieces of music that never stay in the same place for more than a few measures. Every idea these artists have end up somewhere in their artwork, and the ability to cram it all into a three or four-minute piece is astounding. Due to my age and diagnosis, I started craving that kind of sound, pieces that were so chocked full of ideas that no listener could unpack everything offered in just a few casual listens.
In 1997, Keigo Oyamada (who records under the pseudonym of Cornelius) correctly predicted this new wave of electronics with his album Fantasma
. From the very first song, Mic Check
, he is toying with the stereo field, finding and pushing its outer limits by messing with whatever he can find and recording it. This is more than making sure everything functions properly. It is an example of Cornelius figuring out exactly what his equipment is capable of doing, and placing markers where he thinks he could expand upon his creative concepts. Every moment afterwards, from the childlike wonder of The Micro Disneycal World Tour
to the Beach Boys
-esque harmonization on Thank You For The Music
, all the songs are either original genius or an equally clever twist on an idea.
On several occasions in Fantasma
, audio is tweaked ever so subtlely that a certain passage can convey two meanings at the same time. Arguably the most pronounced refinement like that is in Clash
. In the chorus of that song, the word is repeated by Oyamada's ultra-soothing voice. He will layer his own timbre under and over itself to create lush chords that are almost perfect, yet they still retain the human element. However, in this moment, something feels off. Listen to Clash
and notice how the chorus can occasionally feel unsettling, while no individual sound is actually contributing to that. It is somehow altered in a way that makes the listener not completely comfortable, but easily accepting. Another instance would be Star Fruits Surf Rider
, when every layer will sync up to create a peaceful or soporific mood except
for the sequenced drums. Those are rather chaotic and haywire, just loud enough to make the listener notice them but not be overwhelmed.
is a face-to-face conversation with Oyamada, an exploration of what exactly is possible in the realms of acoustic and electronic music. While the listener and the performer are deep in the ardent discussion, the performer lets a secret become known. He knows what the future holds, and presents it with the song 2010
. It is not nearly as long as most of the other pieces, at barely over two minutes. In a sense, though, it could be considered the most important song here. Cornelius predicts what music will sound like in the titular year. It's packed with melodies, twitching drumlines, computer voices, and every piece of experimentation that was floating around in 1997 but expanded tremendously. Popular music didn't entirely sound like that 13 years later, but it definitely got around to marking its territory. It is worthwhile to know how early this prediction was made, back when indie rock and art rock were coming into the forefront of the music scene. Sporadic techno like this was not readily available yet.
It's hard to not get excited while talking about this album. Such brilliant wit is inside Oyamada's head, and listening to Fantasma
is comparable to actually getting to know the man himself. With stunning reimaginings and interpretations of trip hop, the occasional dip into plunderphonics, and refreshing psychedlic features, there is something for a fan of any genre available in the album. The sheer technical skill alone is reason enough to be in awe. Full of majestic surprises, Fantasma
is a one-of-a-kind demonstration of everything good in music at the same time.