Here’s a clip of Japanese musical mixologist and experimental pop musician Keigo Oyamada, known in hipster circles as Cornelius. It’s “Music”, as taken from his 2007 album Senuous, and pulling in ambient techno, jazz, and soul music into something entirely of its own genre.
There is a narrow field of pop music grandeur that lies between melodic warmth, and experimental texturing. This is where, for the most part, Cornelius sets up shop.
Oyamada was inspired first by rock music, specifically centered around guitar playing, which is what he taught himself to do, starting out. But, in the same wave as the Pizzicato Five, Cornelius was born, the name inspired by The Planet of the Apes character as portrayed by Roddy MacDowell. What came out of these influences has been a throw-it-in-the-pot approach to techno music, with the hooks and overall appeal pop/rock music.
During the ’90s, a lot of work was done that sought to dismantle the divisions between sampled music and traditional pop/rock music. Among others, these efforts were piloted by Beck, The Beastie Boys, Moby, The Beta Band, and yes, Cornelius. To me what came out was something which had always been an important part of pop music overall; an emphasis on texture. Accessibility was tempered with experimental excursions, held in aural contrast to make for music that had real substance, being tied to no one particular genre outside of itself. And as far as musical influences went, anything was considered to be grist for the mill. In the end, it’s all pop music.
Luckily for us, the approach lasted into the 2000s, when pop music began to become a bit less risky, and when the divisions between genres so steadfastly challenged in the 1990s were being built up again on mainstream radio. But, even if Cornelius didn’t score a top 40 hit, he continued to do what he’d always done when he’d started out; ignore the rules.
Those walls between experimental sounds and accessible pop live comfortably, and equally in his work. This comes out on his own records like the acclaimed Fantasma, and 2002’s Point which sparked even further interest in him in Europe, as well as on the remixes of the work of others, ranging from Kings of Convenience, Bloc Party, and Sting (!).
With this tune, you can certainly see a number of interests playing into the song; warm and soulful acoustic guitar, with squiggly electronics, and with the rhythm held down by beats and by real drums. And there are even some jazzy ambience to be found here, carrying a welcoming sound that makes this a song, and not just an exercise in aural cut-and-paste.
For more information and more music, check out the Official Cornelius website.