A piano note leads into a shards of electronic noise, the stuttering chop of several acoustic guitars playing against each other, and a field recording of bird sounds. While perhaps this is territory that has been treaded, it hasn’t been treaded with this kind of sheer intensity. The introduction, “Bug (Electric Last Minute),” leads into the first proper track, “Point of View Point.” There is intricate stereo panning, spatial sound, thick and immense timbre, heavily layered instrumentation; Point is full of truly dense harmony. This is a rich kind of music. Emphasizing repetition and percussion, Cornelius has achieved that blending of party music and academic music that has been such a mulled-over preoccupation in the past decade (no need to drop the name of everyone’s favorite Cornelius colleague).
The lines between digital and organic music are blurred. The crisp rhythms that appear on almost every track on Point have an overwhelming sense of tangibility, due to their spatial orientation and impeccably mixed presence. Yet digital gurgles, field recordings, synthesizers, and looped melodies are seamlessly embedded in each track. Cornelius’ subtlety is unmatched. Where electronics themselves are the focus for so many electronic musicians, Cornelius goes out of his way to abstract familiar sounds. The listener can easily identify what he or she hears at first, but each track seems to completely reconstruct itself as it progresses. A recorded sample of swishing water used for the rhythmic presence on “Drop” culminates on someone choking in it. The noise from the introduction is reiterated in the fifth track, “Another View Point.” Tempos, instrumentation, and melodic ideas change with nearly imperceptible finesse.
He only looks back briefly. Traces of the last Cornelius album, Fantasma, are present in those plucked and dreamy bossa nova rhythms and in that lazy, relaxed, comfortable exoticism in his general demeanor. This album isn;t about Martin Denny and the Getz/Gilberto collaboration, though. The introduction suggests that sense of bossa feeling, but quickly gets overcome by Cornelius’ self-awareness, through all of the noise that leads into “Point of View Point,” the listener can hear the previous album being left behind. There are allusions to Fantasma on Point like track six, “Tone Twilight Zone,” and track eight, a cover of “Brazil.” They are a vague nod at work Cornelius has done in the past without even the most remote sense of repetition, and best of all, the track “I Hate Hate” provides a space between the two. Partially thrash metal, hard rock, and just plain noisy rock collage, and ending with the appearance of Cornelius, literally hushing the track, as it fades out, “I Hate Hate” shows Cornelius’ sense of adventure, giving a hint to how his love for rock music will become more fleshed-out in one of the last tracks on the album, “Fly.” It’s a fairly inexplicable track. Distorted guitar, hardcore drumming, dreamy washes of noise. Suffice to say, like most of the Point album, acutely unique.
Birds, forest life, dogs barking, ocean and water sounds. Point is an outdoor album. It is non-specific in its geography, acknowledging nature that everyone is capable of partaking in, and finally concluding with “Nowhere,” a song that seems to look at a the utopian, tropical fantasy promoted in most of the Exotica genre. It becomes a blur of high pitched sine wave tones, punctuated by a burst of something distinctly Cornelius, and a beautifully placed, stretched-out ending piano chord, finally offset by the noise of one of the most thoughtful albums of recent months ending.
Matador Records: http://www.matadorrecords.com/cornelius/