Hot New Innovations from the Ministry of Science
Cornelius breaks new ground in hybrid Japanopop.
Cornelius, the Japanese-pop renaissance man also known as Keigo Oyamada, first came to stateside attention with Fantasma, a 1997 album with a rapid-fire, channel-switching vibe. Fusing a Beatles-level pop savvy with a Boredoms-esque sense of humor and a production ethic Phil Spector would have been proud of, Fantasma was a modern pop masterpiece.
But it took Cornelius--Oyamada takes his stage name from the crafty Planet of the Apes chimp scientist--four years to produce a follow-up. For fans tantalized by Fantasma's frenetic and eclectic brilliance, the long-overdue Point has a lot to live up to.
You cannot rush science, people. But four years?
"I was touring, remixing, producing and took about one year to make Point," says Oyamada. "And I got married and had a kid." Ah, yes, the marriage-kid deal--always a wrench in the works of bold electro-pop experimentation. When you consider that Oyamada also runs the record label Trattoria and maintains a busy schedule of remixing, the creative gap becomes all the more understandable.
Time and fatherhood seem to have mellowed Oyamada a bit, as Point doesn't quite share Fantasma's crazed aesthetic. "This time I wanted to create more space between the sounds and only use the information that I felt was necessary," Oyamada says.
Point still benefits from Oyamada's meticulous cultural cut-and-paste: The flamenco-tinged "Bird Watching at Inner Forest" leads into the heavy-metal romp "I Hate Hate," which in turn leads into an exquisite electro-pop cover of the samba classic "Brazil." But these change-ups flow smoothly, without the head-spinning effect Fantasma sometimes aims for.
Oyamada's choice of samples, his thorough grasp of American pop music and even his choice of moniker all suggest an intimate understanding of American culture. This would seem quite a feat for a Japanese lad whose grasp of English isn't so hot. But, according to him, the mongrelization makes more sense than you might think.
"After Japan lost the war to America, it's become a mixed culture," Oyamada explains. "There isn't really a pure Japanese culture. I don't really understand English much, so I don't know what people are singing about. But, there's a message that comes through music--which is a good part of music--and I catch the atmosphere through it."
Cornelius plays Monday, Aug. 19, at the Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W Burnside St., 225-5555 ext. 8811. South also appears. 8 pm. $15. All ages.
Enon knows it's only rock and roll. So they break it.
If anyone can hotwire pop music, scrap its rusty components and make something new, it's John Schmersal, guitarist, vocalist and mastermind behind Enon.
Schmersal considers his Brooklyn-based quartet to be a pop outfit. But his version of pop is like a mouthful of Pop Rocks: kinetic and unpredictable, yet strangely sweet. "Pop music to me is more like a sensibility that includes everything that's catchy," Schmersal says. "I'd rather use 'pop' as a reference for us than something more classifying like 'New Wave' or 'alternative' or whatever."
Enon picks up where Schmersal's previous electroshock band, Brainiac, left off. Built upon traditional rock instrumentation of electric guitars and acoustic drums, Enon mixes in a variety of electronics, samples and collective dementia to create an aggressively infectious sound. Its recently released second album, High Society, features a bigger, live rock band feel than Enon's debut, Believo! on the SeeThru Broadcasting label. The rock songs erupt with gale force, while the mellow songs are more thoroughly crafted.
Enon began as a studio-based collaborative project between Schmersal and former Skeleton Key members Rick Lee (on guitar and various electronic noisemakers) and Steve Calhoon (on a misshapen monstrosity of drums and metal pieces). Shortly after its Y2K debut, Calhoon was forced to quit the band due to family obligations. Drummer Matt Schulz stepped in. Bassist and occasional singer Toko Yasuda soon entered the fold after her band, the Lapse, abruptly folded.
Several successful tours ensued, including a stint opening for the Flaming Lips. But strife wasn't through with Enon. The band parted ways with founding member Lee in early 2002. Though the band misses Lee's contributions, Schmersal considers Enon's revamped lineup as yet another hot-rod modification. "It's made us tighter," Schmersal explains. "Since things have been more stripped-down, it's made us concentrate on space and simplicity."
No matter what comes its way, Enon remains tethered to the tenets of popular music. "We want to draw people in," Schmersal says. "Music is supposed to be original and interesting." Say what?
Enon plays Friday, Aug. 16, at Blackbird, 3728 NE Sandy Blvd., 282-9949. Bloodthirsty Lovers and T.K. Webb also appear. 9:30 pm. $8. 21+.
MUSIC & NIGHTLIFE NEWS & GOSSIP
HISS AND VINEGAR
FROM OUR KITCHEN TO YOUR TABLE
Please forgive us, because the imminent arrival of Musicfest Northwest (Sept. 12-14) has our blood sugar low, our brains addled and our self-promotion capacity cranked to its max. So let's drop this pretense of "objectivity," and get down to SELLING THE PRODUCT:
The schedule for Musicfest (the festival so nice, we bolded its name twice) is coming together...really. Seventeen clubs x five bands a night per place x two nights + the Thursday night hip-hop showcase at the Roseland = a mind-blowing cacophony, featuring scores of bands. So far, such eminent Northwest sound tycoons as Kill Rock Stars, BSI, Hush Records, IMIX, Siren Music...and more...have signed on for showcase action. And we are plowing through almost 800 applications from area bands--plucking, weighing, culling and dicing to come up with the final line-up. You'll know it as soon as we do, m'dearies.
Meanwhile, wristbands are on sale now at both Music Millennium locations, BridgePort (1313 NW Marshall St.) and WW's heavily fortified global headquarters at 822 SW 10th Ave. See www.musicfestnw.com for updates, or watch this space. And now...
THE NEWS, THE RUMORS: A MERRY-GO-ROUND OF EVENTS
A rock-'n'-roll bed & breakfast? A hipster hostelry? A place for hard-living road warriors to rest their weary heads? Talk of establishing a five-to-six-room, ultra-cheap "hotel" for the use of touring bands is swirling. Apparently, the Dixon Manor aims to open in October, offering dirt-cheap (but not dirty) accommodation for wandering rockers. And apparently a sizable North Portland pad, complete with eager owner, is secure. We'll fill you in as all becomes clear, but know this: A benefit for the project is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 28 at a venue TBD, featuring the Decemberists, the Places and Operacycle. Another bennie, maybe at Berbati's, is contemplated for late September...OTHER STUFF: Let's just say that the band Perfect in Plastic is either really unlucky or cursed/blessed with an overactive imagination. They're claiming fire, lawsuits, a falling out with their Bulgarian label. Who knows?...Meanwhile, Jeff Trott, he of the enviable Sheryl Crow connection, scored a very nice write-up on Rollingstone.com: "Portland's Jeff Trott is one of the coolest musicians you haven't heard of yet," sayeth RS.com of Trott's Dig Up the Astroturf...Rumor has it that live music may be getting the folk (HA HA HA HA HA HA HA...) out of McMenamins' St. Johns Pub. Seems the McM's empire is considering changing the classic NoPo building into yet another beer-'n'-movies pub...An informant reports that opening act The Zells were the highlight of last week's packed Modest Mouse show: "sort of Elliott Smith meets Belle and Sebastian meets the Kinks and Ben Folds Five...." Egad, they've created a monster.