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A bathos ape - click opera
February 2010
 
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Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 09:20 am
A bathos ape

One of my daily stops on the internet is a Japanese site called Qooqle Clippers. It's an interface which selects the most popular Japanese picks off YouTube. You have to sign up for it, and the application form is in Japanese only, but it's quite easily translated with web translation, and all they want is your e mail address and a password.



Anyway, one of the Qooqle clips yesterday was the video for the new Cornelius single, "Music". It's five years since his last album, "Point" -- and almost ten years since Cornelius dazzled us with brilliant music, in the form of 1997's (1998 in the West) "Fantasma". "Point" is known in my house as "Disappoint"; I found its clipped, tidy guitars and nebulous, so-what songs underwhelming, although in principle I appreciated the gentle, LOHAS direction, and I remember finding the transitions between the songs, when he played the album live, rather intoxicating. And of course the live visuals were brilliant.

In the five years since "Point" Cornelius hasn't been idle. He's been bringing up baby ape Milo, but he's also worked extensively with Ryuichi Sakamoto, whose Chain Music project involves artists from Haruomi Hosono to O.LAMM reworking Cornelius sounds. The extra-curricular activity doesn't seem to have bumped his style anywhere new, though. The forthcoming single sounds like an out-take from "Point". There are clipped acoustic guitar chords, plucked bass notes, 90s analog synth decorations bathed in digital delay, and long, layered vocal harmonies. Cornelius is singing about "sweet music" and, my limited Japanese tells me, that extends to celebrating "the sound of the rain". Which is all very well in a sub-John Cage, sub-Zen sort of way, but it's tempting to say that making music about music is the last refuge of a man with more love for his medium than messages to fill it with.

The first Cornelius single after five years could have been a statement of a new aesthetic, a change in direction not just for him but for the world, some discovery he'd made, some influence he'd channelled. Instead, it's simply wishy-washy and dull. One-time disciples like Damon "Gorillaz" Albarn have by now far outstripped the monkey king, stolen his crown, and run off into the jungle whooping. New arrivals like Tujiko Noriko write much better songs. And Cornelius is, literally, sitting on a song goldmine in the form of his wife, Takako Minekawa. When will she make a new album?

As an experimental control I watched a random video off YouTube, "Let's Make Love and Listen to Death From Above" by Sao Paolo's CSS (Subpop), trying to imagine it was the new Cornelius single. It would have made a better return. Hell, even a note-for-note cover of The Flipper's Guitar's Young, Alive and in Love would have been refreshing.



As with "Point", the best things about "Music" are visual. The video, co-incidentally, uses the same "psychedelic mirroring" effect I used in my "Frilly Military" video earlier this year. But much, much better. I'm also very impressed by the QuickTime VR movie of Cornelius' Nakameguro studio currently advertising "Music" on his website. This allows you to explore the top floor of Cornelius' management company 3D's office, the studio space he's used for all his recordings since the late 90s. It's also where I recorded the basic tracks for "Frilly Military" back in 2001 (it was originally a track for Kahimi Karie), and, as the airbells tinkle pleasantly, you can scroll your way over to the Maestro drum box I play on that track, or the Moog I played on stage with Kahimi on her 1998 tour.

Cornelius is a lovely man, shy and generous; last time I was in his studio he gave me a vinyl copy of his new record and, when I confessed I didn't have a turntable to play it on, went and found a boxed, limited edition Cornelius record player and gave me that too. I owe him an enormous amount; without his championing of my work early on, my experience of the 90s would have been dismal indeed, and my love affair with Japan would have been much more one-sided. So I wish I could tell you that his new single was a revelation rather than merely pleasant, and accompanied by great visuals.

The track listing for the EP (due on August 23rd) is:

1. MUSIC
2. GUM
3. CLAP&WHISTLE&WALKING
4. STAR SPANGLE-GAYO,TH

"Gum", apparently, has already been used in a Japanese Vodaphone commercial. One thing's for sure; with its flat, tuneless, join-the-dots vocals, "Music" won't find its way onto many karaoke machines.

34CommentReplyShare

cityramica
cityramica
cityramica
Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 07:40 am (UTC)

Milo is Cornelius & Takako Minekawa's baby?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 07:42 am (UTC)

Yessirreee! Named after the baby ape in "Planet of the Apes".


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lil_octopie
lil_octopie
...---...
Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 08:04 am (UTC)

although i'll reserve my judgement for the whole ep... the plus side is, hopefully this means a tour! point album was lackluster, but his concert was one of my all time favourites. very interactive and a good time by all.

let's hope he'll stay home with the babe next and takako can give us cuckoocloud 2007

i've been listening to css for a while, but i had no idea they were so cute! ^_^


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 08:37 am (UTC)

By the way, can any Japanese speakers clarify whether he's really singing about unko (shit) around the 52 second mark?


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bricology
bricology
bricology
Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 08:47 am (UTC)

Excellent post! (-if you'll still accept a compliment from me) Personal, conversational, optomistic, interesting and uniquely yours.

I've been a big Takako Minekawa fan for years, and was a Cornelius fan as well, up to a "Point", but I had no idea that they were a couple, nor that they had a child, nor that Keigo-san had a new record out. And it's unlikely that I ever would've discovered Qoogle Clippers if you hadn't referenced it here (what's with the Japanese and the word "clipper"--as in Capsule's new CD? It's not like it's an easy word for them to say!).

Yes, I noticed some subtle textural references in your post, and even perhaps a political subtext here or there--all of which I happily accept in the name of learning new things from your experiences and observations that _don't_ necessarily involve polemics. And so, I can now go to sleep a happy man.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 09:11 am (UTC)

Yes, qooqle clippers is great. Another interesting video on there just now is the one for ACO's new single, which sees her dancing around in a pink skirt in front of a huge Aya Takano painting, ocassionally donning a sheep mask. The song's not up to much, though.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 09:21 am (UTC)

little precision about chain-music - the idea was not to rework cornelius' sounds, but to use (and add to it) all the other participants sounds, and compose a tail-piece to it. cornelius is just one of the participants. oh, and did you know that aoki takamasa had worked on aco's record too (he remixed an old song, if i'm not mistaken)?

olivier


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 09:24 am (UTC)

Ah, merci, Olivier!


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 09:24 am (UTC)

oh, one more thing, you can't decently say that CSS are more interesting that this new c's output! they're fun and pretty, but the music is, well, lame.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 09:34 am (UTC)

I beg to disagree: the way the sequenced synth funk riff and the live guitar funk riff go against each other's grain, go in and out of sync, is actually more interesting, musically, than anything happening on the Cornelius record (he's too controlled to let anything like that happen), the little synth hook is great, and the bit where it goes into a big fat rock-out riff in halftime is also inventive. The rap has a Tom Tom Club charm too.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 09:32 am (UTC)
Director?

Do you know who made the video?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 09:37 am (UTC)
Re: Director?

Yes, it's by longtime Cornelius video collaborator Takagi Masakatsu.


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Re: Director? - (Anonymous) Expand


Re: Director? - (Anonymous) Expand
nicepimmelkarl
.
Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 11:00 am (UTC)

i feel tempted to buy the vodafone mobile connect card for my laptop.
i'm not sure yet. ACHTUNG!!! ACHTUNG!! SAND ON THE KEYBOARD!!! hey guys, that poem sounds crunchy. olives !!! retsina !!!! yummy yummy!! the house: 16th century venetian. 300 euros per month. that's what i'm talking about, my son.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 02:10 pm (UTC)

I haven't heard the Buffalo Daughter, no. Kahimi's "Montage" I have somewhere, but I think I've only listened to it once! Somehow her more recent work just doesn't hook me at all. But I'm far from qualified to be objective about her.


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blastoisemaster
blastoisemaster
BlastoiseMaster
Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 04:09 pm (UTC)

This post makes me sad. I agree entirely about Fantasma, and how lackluster and uncomplicated Point was compared to it, and ungrateful as it may be, I really wanted this to be a Fantasma 2. Fantasma is my favorite album, for how all-over-the-place it was in influences, all focused into one album by Cornelius.

Then again, this is only one song out of the entire album. I guess if I had only heard Star Fruits Surf Rider before hearing Fantasma, I might not expect it to be so great. But then again, SFSR is still far superior to Music.

Oh, and FYI, Clap & Whistle was featured on a compilation of some kind earlier this year I believe.

...I just want one song as good as New Music Machine, and it's not ever coming, is it? ;_;


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bopscotch
bopscotch
bopscotch
Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 05:01 pm (UTC)

His greatest piece of work is the remix of Coldcut's "Atomic Moog 2000". Man that's a blinder of a song, especially with the free jazz breakdown! What happened!?


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Aug. 16th, 2006 10:16 pm (UTC)
Dziga Vertov

I liked the song(the video is a killer) a lot but i also liked Point very much. I do agree that it sound like a song from Point but i think you are much to hard. To do an album like fantasma now would be awful(it's one of my top albums ever), it would come out like an plus tech squeeze box album and we have enough of those. He seems to be going his own way more now, fantasma was a mix of,Shibuya,apples in stereo,beach boys,beastie boys and other things that was cool then. What can you say that Point is made of.
When you say that Damon "Gorillaz" Albarn has stolen the crown i just think you come out stupid. Albarn has not got a clue about what he is doing with Gorillaz, he just takes a bunch of stuff he thinks that people thinks is cool and makes music that sound old even before they release it.
Also i like to say that Takako Minekawa's records sound alot like Cornelius Point especially Fun9.

You did a post a couple of days ago about what you listen to now, i really dont think any of that stuff is better than this.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Aug. 17th, 2006 12:04 am (UTC)
DFA1979

Funny connection. CSS recently toured with Diplo. Diplo's been hanging around Montreal, and when they passed through town they were probably exposed to power duo from Toronto named... Death From Above 1979 (http://www.deathfromabove1979.com/). The scene in the video of two musicians back to back represents them. Just in case, you know, you didn't know... :)

Bopuc


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Aug. 17th, 2006 06:15 am (UTC)
Re: DFA1979

Yes, and I really dislike DFA1979. I saw them live at a Vice party in Tokyo a couple of years ago. I'm rather glad they just split up. I prefer MSTRKRFT.


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Re: DFA1979 - (Anonymous) Expand
cerulicante
cerulicante
cerulicante
Thu, Aug. 17th, 2006 01:54 am (UTC)

I'm not allowed to listen to Cornelius because it turns my mind from science to warm summer evenings strolling around Osaka and I don't get anything done.


I'm also not allowed to visit Japan because it's well-known I won't come back.


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iamcoreyd
C.T. Dalton
Thu, Aug. 17th, 2006 02:14 am (UTC)

Sorry Nick, I don't see what you see in CSS. It just sounds to me like that "female chauvinist" stuff you slammed awhile back, but worse.

(On an unrelated topic, are you familiar with Last.fm?)


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