Is our little Cornelius all growed up now? Keigo Oyamada's newest album, Point, manages to preserve the wide-eyed sense of wonder that made his previous release so precious, but this time he's clearly on his best behavior.
Cornelius' last album, Fantasma, released in 1998, was one of those universally acclaimed albums that no one actually spent much time listening to. (Instead, it was a badge of "otherness" in cool-seekers' record collections.) The album certainly had a rare genius to it -- it was a wild spasm of vocal and musical samples that ultimately reminded the listener what it was like to fall in love with music for the first time. But on Point, Cornelius has done something even rarer: He's translated that outsider's love of music into a genuinely cohesive listening experience and a loungey, electronic simulacrum of real, natural beauty.
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The samples on Point have been smoothed down, their edges barely discernible, and the album feels seamless from beginning to end. It evokes a place that's warm, lush, exotic, and free of responsibility -- like one of Henri Rousseau's jungle paintings set to music. Listening to the chirping birds, flapping wings and rain sticks that inhabit many of the songs, it's difficult to resist placing the album in a location, and harder still to actually find that location. "Nowhere" is the perfect analogy for Point. The track begins with waves lapping the shore of a distant beach while muted horns and lightly plucked strings pull you out of your head and deposit you someplace where the produce tastes much better. When Cornelius announces, "Point! Stop the music," it's like being snapped out of hypnosis.
Another track, "Drop," is simple and gorgeous, combining natural sounds (large, continuous drops of water) with a looped acoustic guitar chord. It has the beauty of a Burt Bacharach arrangement (yes, beauty), while Cornelius' soft Japanese vocals, which rise to the heavens and fall back slowly over and over, remind you insistently that there is something more alien in this utopia. The album even has its own tropical storm -- a mid-record temper tantrum cheekily named "I Hate Hate" in which discordant digital effects duel noisily with speed-and-glam metal guitars until its creator hushes them into the calm of "Brazil."