Record label: Matador
Format: LP/CD
Release date: 22 January 2002

In today's music industry, the word "genius" gets tossed like a salad, wasted on so many artists who don't deserve it. Keigo Oyamada (a.k.a. Cornelius) remains one of the few worthy enough to wear such a title. Learning at the feet of the Beatles and the Beach Boys about stunning harmonies and how to make the perfect pop song, he has never shied away from injecting some digital mischief into his compositions. It's this curious tightrope walk between acoustic and electronic that makes Cornelius' music so intriguing. Outside of the genrecidal rollercoaster of 69/96 (strictly import, folks - start searching), his 1998 U.S. debut Fantasma made for a wild ride, dissecting the history of pop music in 50 minutes. In comparison, Point is considerably subdued, but no less risk-taking.

What makes Point so interesting is the painstaking detail that Cornelius provides to both rhythm and silence. "Point of View Point" establishes right from the start that where notes are placed and where they aren't is of equal importance. "Drop" could easily work as a dance floor filler, sounding like a stripped-down version of Bassment Jaxx's "Rendez-Vu" (mainly due to the chord structure and predominant use of Spanish guitar). Equally danceable is "Another View Point," taking elements from "Point of View Point" and stirring up some acoustic techno. The highs and lows of this album - in terms of volume and intensity - are more distinct in light of the space Cornelius allows his compositions this time around. Quieter moments are offered on "Tone Twilight Zone," "Nowhere," and an ingenious cover of the theme to Brazil. The most extreme and Fantasma-like sonic outburst comes in his take on speed metal, and even that track can't escape Keigo's charm (it's entitled "I Hate Hate").

The four-year absence was well worth the wait for a new album. Cornelius captures our ears and imaginations once again. Point is certainly a change for an artist who usually crafts jam-packed tunes, but it's a change for the better.

{steve crognale}

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