It's been five long years since Cornelius dropped his last album, Point. For a pop artist to ask their fans to hang around that long between releases is like asking your girlfriend to stay celibate while you're serving time for grand larceny. You'd like to think that people are loyal by nature, but the reality is that people tend to go with whatever's in front of them. Wizard that he is, however, Cornelius has been able to stay one step ahead of his fans so that we forgive him for 60 months without so much as a phone call.
When Cornelius (AKA Keigo Oyamada of Tokyo) released his two previous albums, Fantasma and Point, they were like perfect bookends to the millennium-bridging post-rock renaissance that included pop experimenters like Björk, Beck, Cibo Matto, and Tortoise. His 1997 debut was a balls-out masterpiece of collage, from cats meowing "It's a Small World" to layered Brian Wilson-esque harmonies. Five years later, when Point came out (I'm spotting a trend here), Cornelius had appeared to mellow out a little bit, but he continued to tickle his listeners' ears in a whole new way. Point was as focused as Fantasma was spastic. Instead of throwing everything against the wall to see what would stick, Cornelius had slowed things down with an unforeseen attention to harmonics and stereophonics. No fan could have seen it coming, but the stylistic shift went off without a hitch.
A decade removed from his first release, Cornelius is back with Sensuous, which slickly marries the sensibilities of his first two albums. Stylistically, it's closer to Point—none of it will jolt you upright if you fall asleep with the CD playing (a phenomenon that happened to me more than once with Fantasma)—but there's a lot of fun cut 'n' paste action to keep the songs popping in syncopation. The album is deep and expansive—I've been listening to it for weeks, and still feel like I'm scratching the surface of its atmospheric layers.
With a five-year buildup in these fast-changing times, I had prepared myself for my first Cornelius disappointment, but once again, Tokyo's sonic sensation made good on the promises of his previous work. I guess I'll see him again in 2012—or whenever this grand larceny stint is up. Either way.