A truly unexpected and wonderful surprise with today’s album, which was the 7th of 10 albums my son selected to add to my list. I had no clue what genre or style of music I was getting when I started up “Fantasma” by Cornelius, although my first guess based on the time-stamp was a hip-hop artist. Much to my surprise, Cornelius is a Japanese act that is almost impossible to classify, although progressive, artistic alternative rock might be a starting point. Cornelius is essentially a one-man musical act, known also as Keigo Oyamada. Comparisons I read that seemed pretty accurate placed Cornelius with “Pet Sounds” & ”Smile”-era Brian Wilson and Beck, with their complete creative control and expansive sound integration. This record is amazing and beautiful, and I’m so grateful for the day I spent obsessing over this album.
There are also similarities with “OK Computer” which I recently listened to by Radiohead, although if I had to choose a favorite of the two, I would definitely pick this one. The record opens with “Mic Check”, and for all of its electronic dabbling, the ultimate melody that emerges just past the two-minute mark is a gorgeous preview of what is to come on this record.
As I listened to the second song, without looking at the song title, it reminded me of a chemically enhanced version of something I might hear on a ride at Disneyworld. How perfect then when I looked at the title of “Micro Disneycal World Tour”. Yep, that one certainly fits.
One of my favorite elements of the sound of Cornelius is that even though it is very synth and electric sound heavy, there are songs where the guitar and drums rock their way to the front. “New Music Machine” is one of those tracks, and it really rocks while delivering a fantastically blended chorus.
I enjoyed all of the album, but the next segment of songs that really blew my mind starts with “Star Fruits Surf Rider”. This astral, cosmic, and unbelievable sound just carries me away, and I could listen to this song in perpetuity. It flows into this quirky pop song that is “Chapter 8 “Seashore and Horizon””. This is also one of the songs that ties me directly with Radiohead, as the abrasive guitar note at the end is remarkably similar to the end of “Karma Police”, and just as that song eventually takes us into an up-tempo rocker, we get the all-out rock song that is “Free Fall” here. The guitar and drums so intensely the pace of this song, and it is a fuzzed and distorted masterpiece that somehow pulls in more wonderfully paired harmony vocals.
The title song, the all-too-brief “Fantasma”, sounds as if it was directly lifted from a Beach Boys harmony session. The last two songs that stand out above the rest for me are the lush and soft track that is “Lazy”, with an irresistible two-note guitar riff, and the final track, the oddly performed “Typewrite Lesson”. Not only is this similar in style to “Fitter Happier”, the social commentary of the sequence of acronyms somehow takes me back to “7 O’clock News / Silent Night” by Simon & Garfunkel. This song, as it were, is a production masterpiece, and certainly leaves you thinking and piecing thoughts together as it concludes.
As I immersed myself fully in a record I had never even heard of before today, it just begs the question, what else is out there that I haven’t heard yet? I will never get to all of it, but this experience and today’s goldrush of sound only serves to amplify and intensify my desire to take in as much music as the world can offer me in my limited time left to enjoy it. Each day is a gift… make the most of it.