March 19, 2018 | Lars Gotrich — As Cornelius, Keigo Oyamada has stretched his vision across frenzied indie rock, lush ’60s-style pop, psychedelic funk and glitched electronics, all deconstructed and reassembled like a neon cubist-pop sculpture. After a little more than two decades, no one can really imitate his complex cool.
Sporting a pair of sunglasses (always), Oyamada recently brought his band from Japan to the Tiny Desk on a rare U.S. tour, including his longtime collaborator and former Pizzicato Five member Hiroshisa Horie, drummer Yuko Araki (Mi-Gu, Cibo Mato’s live band) and synthesist Yumiko Matsumura (Buffalo Daughter). They’re all musicians who tease and poke at music’s fringe territory, but still know how to make a song buzz and pop with gleeful curiosity.
Here, Cornelius performs three very different songs from last year’s Mellow Waves. There’s the robotic groove of “Helix/Spiral,” which repeats and mutates the same phrase and melodic fragments in a delicate and strange dance. “In a Dream” is a star-swept landscape that invites the subconscious to search for meaning, its keyboard flourishes and light acoustic strums so breezy you could almost call it a kind of retro-futuristic yacht rock. But set closer “If You’re Here” is the real marvel to behold live, as the band performs at different tempos, gradually solving a polyrhythmic puzzle of a slow jam. The song also features one of my favorite guitar solos in recent memory — it’s unflashy, but twists, spits and resolves in the most unexpected ways.
“In a Dream”
“If You’re Here”
Keigo Oyamada (guitar, vocals); Hiroshisa Horie (keyboards, vocals); Yuko Araki (drums, vocals); Yumiko Matsumura (Moog, vocals)
Producers: Lars Gotrich, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Beck Harlan, Kara Frame, Dani Lyman; Production Assistant: Joshua Bote; Photo: Jenna Sterner/NPR.