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Point Taken

 

Cornelius: Point

Matador, 2002

Rating: 4.2

 

 

Posted: February 12, 2002

By Laurence Station

Point opens with the sound of chirping birds breaking through a technological barrier (perhaps pecking at wires strung from Cornelius' Nakameguro studio), followed by a brief tonal respite and ultimately the fusion of nature and technology into a near seamless blend. That moment, as well as anything, signifies the Japanese cut-and-paste master's arrival as a major force in the world of progressive pop music.

Whereas Cornelius' 1998 stateside debut Fantasma proved to be all over the map stylistically, Point is an intensely focused, carefully crafted and organically delicate work that doesn't overwhelm with flashy bursts of noise and too-clever overdub gimmicks. On more laidback tracks like the water-themed "Drop" and the blissfully cogent "Bird Watching At Inner Forest," Cornelius takes his time building melody via pulse-driven instrumentation, allowing the songs to evolve unhurriedly, before closing with (subdued, but no less effective) crescendos.

Counterbalancing the quiet vibe are the tight, guitar funk of "Smoke" (complimented nicely by the dense, bass-powered "Another View Point"), and the brief, energetically punkish "I Hate Hate."

The highlight comes on the sole non-original cut: Ary Barroso's pop standard "Brazil." Hearing Cornelius pseudo-croon the widely covered line "There's one thing that I'm certain of/Return I will to old Brazil" is sheer brilliance in its romantic yearning filtered through a staccato, robotic voice box.

The main monkey wrench in this otherwise faultlessly crafted gem rears its ugly mug towards the end; the dispensable "Fly" assaults rather than invigorates the overall placid mood, sounding more like a reject from the Fantasma sessions than a fresh composition.

Closing with the philosophically meditative "Nowhere," the sound of lazily crashing waves in the distance, Point comes full circle. Cornelius has found the proper balance between his more brash, showy tendencies and the desire to be taken seriously as a composer of top-flight pop-inflected songs. The danger may be the alienation of listeners expecting a sequel to the scatterbrained Fantasma, but Cornelius appears perfectly content to move well beyond his earlier tricky, yet undisciplined efforts into a clean, clear, harmoniously sound future.

 
Flipping Out
Before going solo in 1993, Cornelius (then known by his birth name of Keigo Oyamada) toiled in indie band Flipper's Guitar. The group put out three albums --- Three Cheers For Out Side  (1989), Camera Talk  (1990), Doctor Head's World Tower  (1991) --- all of which are well worth seeking out for those interested in Cornelius' formative years.
Sound Relations
Other noteworthy bands on Corneilus' label, Trattoria, include Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her and Hideki Kaji.

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: A classic
 4.0-4.9: Stellar work
 3.0-3.9: Worthwhile effort
 2.0-2.9: Nothing special
 1.1-1.9: Pretty bad
 0.0-1.0: Total disaster

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