Wednesday, May 19, 1999

Mixed Results

Posted By on Wed, May 19, 1999 at 12:00 AM

In today’s remix culture, there is no better subject or subjector than Japan’s Cornelius. Last year’s American debut, Fantasma, somehow managed to rearrange seemingly every possible musical genre into a dizzying blur of pop wizardry. Cornelius turns the studio into an amusement park for one heck of a wild romp. Cartoon themes, the Clash, Bach, the Beach Boys, My Bloody Valentine and drum ’n’ bass are all tweaked, twisted and turned on their head in Cornelius’ Music Machine. Obsessed with Western pop music and pop culture from his Planet of the Apes namesake to Mr. Magoo and Walt Disney, he’s a musical Dr. Frankenstein, a happy-go-lucky kid in a candy store full of bubblegum pop who can put Vivaldi with Black Sabbath without seeing the irony.

Fantasma made Cornelius a huge star in his native land and caught the ears and admiration of quite a few other international cut-and-pasters. This mutual admiration society culminates on two new discs of traded studio tricks.

CM finds Cornelius mixing an eclectic lineup of trendsetters as varied and innovative as his own sound. He turns U.N.K.L.E’s "Ape Shall Never Kill Ape" into a punk ruckus of film theme music. He whistles along to the summer vibes of Money Mark’s "Maybe I’m Dead." Buffalo Daughter’s "Five Great Lakes" finds croaking frogs and mad scratches. In some cases, such as the Coldcut and the Pastels tracks, he sticks close to the originals; on others, he tears them apart for a whole new effect. The High Llamas get especially twisted on "Homespin Rerun." Yet for such a diverse set of starting tracks, CM is actually pretty cohesive — everything bears Cornelius’ thumbprint.

FM, the disc of Fantasma remixes, is filled with a more odd and open assortment of takes on Cornelius’ material. Blur’s Damon Albarn adds his own Shaft-like vocals and a message from the heart of space to his version of "Star Fruit Surf Rider." Coldcut’s "Typewrite Lesson" integrates drum ’n’ bass with typing clatter. The High Llamas rebuild "Microdisneycal World Tour" on a banjo riff and Money Mark puts old school beats with droning organ on "Mic Check."

It all adds up to a pleasant experiment, a thick mixture of candy-coated technology and beats. Though it would be hard to top Fantasma itself, the two CDs make nice bookends to the album and add some dimension to a man who already seems to live somewhere far beyond the third dimension of sound.

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