True to its name, Mellow Waves, the new album from Japanese music-maker Cornelius (née Keigo Oyamada) — his first North American release in over a decade — is a supremely chill affair. But it's also a fairly forgettable one, feeling less like the rollercoaster of sounds and ideas he first became known for in the West, and more like a short sit in the shallows as the tide carries the water away.
In recent years, the turn-of-the-century pop phenom has spent most of his time collaborating with artists like Yoko Ono and J-pop singer Salyu, or composing soundtracks for works like the recent anime reboot of Ghost in the Shell. That cinematic flair is definitely here on tracks like the tremolo-heavy "Surfing on Mind Wave Pt. 2" and the stirring and subdued guitar instrumental "Crepuscule," but for the most part, Mellow Waves finds Oyamada rehashing old sounds and styles: the surgical saw guitars and acrobatic bass lines of the evolving "Sometimes / Someplace"; the robotic vocals and canned percussion of "Helix / Spiral."
The album's focal point is undoubtedly six-minute opener "If You're Here," a slow and seductive number that ends up showcasing his guitar virtuosity by song's end. It's slowly downhill from there, though, as the track times get shorter and the ideas somewhat less enthralling.
Oyamada's work as Cornelius over the past 20 years has defied genre, logic and time; on Mellow Waves, it sounds like he's on cruise control. (Rostrum)