Recommend if you like: Tortoise, Radiohead, Vulfpeck

Expectation: Cornelius the solo project of Japanese musician, songwriter, and producer Keigo Oyamada, known for his work as the guitarist of the highly influential Flipper’s Guitar, his critically acclaimed solo discography, and his extensive remix catalog. Mellow Waves is Oyamada’s first solo album in 11 years.

TRACK-BY-TRACK

  • If You’re Here – An incredibly mellow opener which lays down a relaxed rhythm of electronic sound to support Cornelius’s lilting, dreamlike vocals, then introduces the live instrumentation for fills and soloing later on.
  • Sometime / Someplace – A great jam with a healthy dose of dramatic flair, as well as one of the most intense performances on the album.
  • Dear Future Person – A bulletproof piece of songwriting. Cornelius strikes upon a fantastic leading melody, and the constantly developing instrumental makes every moment engaging.
  • Surfing On Mind Wave Pt. 2 – A gentle, soaring interlude of synths and field recordings to develop a serene atmosphere.
  • In a Dream – A relaxed and pleasant tune, but lacking in the level of detail and originality compared to other tracks.
  • Helix / Spiral – One of the more experimental tracks on the album, but the unique qualities fail to fully compensate for the degree of repetition which wears on the listener over the length of the track.
  • Mellow Yellow Feel – Layers of twangy, plucked guitars and gently tapping drum rhythms, and a hilariously fun guitar solo (or is it a duet? Cornelius’s unique approach makes it difficult to tell.)
  • The Spell of a Vanishing Loveliness – While starting off very strong, the song falters in part due to the limits of Cornelius’s lyrical ability in English.
  • The Rain Song – A gentle acoustic track with a few interesting elements filling in spaces, but mostly just nice background music.
  • Crépuscule – A completely instrumental composition which provides the album with a lovely, sentimental conclusion.

Overall: It is rare to find such peaceful music which is also so rife with complexity. Cornelius barely wastes a moment of the album’s 41 minute run-time, and the complete piece rewards attentive listening just as much as it suits being played quietly in the background. Cornelius’s sound pulls heavily from both rock and jazz, as well as the Shibuya-kei sound which he helped to define, and his production ability continues to exceed all expectations. Mellow Waves is a uniquely adventurous album, and a welcome addition to Cornelius’s exceptional discography.

Score: 7/10

 

Never heard Cornelius before? Here is a playlist of highlights from his various projects, from 1989-2017!

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