Thank You For The Music
November 25, 2012 1:24 AM   Subscribe

"If Fantasma is a concept album, then what exactly is the concept? Simply-put, Fantasma is an album about music itself — a tribute to how the very process of hardcore music nerd fandom and collection reference lead to creation and production." Released in 1997, Fantasma by Cornelius was one of the finest albums of the 90's, and arguably the peak of the Shibuya-Kei music scene in Japan. Néojaponisme recently published a five-part, detailed retrospective on the album in honor of its fifteenth anniversary. While reading, you can listen to a playlist of the full album on YouTube. Enjoy!

The Legacy of Shibuya-Kei

Flipper's Guitar - "Blue Shinin' Quick Star" (1991)
Cornelius with Kahimi Karie performing 69/96 tracks on NHK (circa 1995)

"Drop" (2002)
"Point of View Point" (2002)
"Music" (2006)
"Breezin'" (2006)
posted by naju (22 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
Thank you for the post.
posted by acb at 3:10 AM on November 25, 2012

Neat post. I had only listened to Point before, right around the time my son was born in 2002. This is awesomer.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:16 AM on November 25, 2012

Néojaponisme also features incredibly good and insightful writing on Japan in English, something very rare indeed.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:19 AM on November 25, 2012

I’ve had Fantasma since 1998 or 1999 and listened to it a lot back then, but I can’t remember how I heard about it. Before it I was listening to Brian Wilson c. 1966 (Pet Sounds / “Good Vibrations” / Smile sessions), Momus, and The Apples in Stereo as well as an excellent/quirky Japanese Brian Wilson tribute album called Smiling Pets (featuring Japanese and U.S. artists), so Fantasma fit in with it all.

I never bought Point or any of his other stuff, but I’m glad he didn’t try to rehash Fantasma.

The article mentions that in the CD booklet photos “He poses like Brian Wilson leaning on a mixing board...” but fails to note that the photo (and I believe at least one other) are deliberate recreations of specific photos of Brian Wilson in the studio from 1966.
posted by D.C. at 4:22 AM on November 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Cornelius' Typewriter Lesson is such an amazingly amazing piece of amazing.
posted by item at 6:34 AM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

The last Flipper's Guitar record sampled from Screamadelica and, if I remember correctly, Marky Mark. Only a few years later he came out with 69/96. Pretty amazing. It would be nice if he made records more often.
posted by snofoam at 6:49 AM on November 25, 2012

One of the best records ever!
posted by word_virus at 7:09 AM on November 25, 2012

That song he did with Apples in Stereo is still one of my favorite collaborations ever. The click of the tape as he cycles between the two melodies....(swoon)

Also, a fun Cornelius fact is that motherfucker totally shreds on the guitar and a lot of live recordings of him are, surprisingly, him shredding through various medleys of songs on the guitar.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:41 AM on November 25, 2012

I had a pet chicken in high school named Cornelius, half after the Corn Flakes mascot and half after this dude.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:42 AM on November 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you ever get the chance to see Cornelius live then do. Jaw droppingly good.

I got to Cornelius in an oblique way via Pizzicato 5 who piqued my interest in Japanese pop. I now have a 1990's shaped gap in my Western music knowledge as that whole decade pretty much was spent listening to Japanese music. I think I'm a better person for it too.

The Sushi albums are a fun sampler to point you in the right direction.
posted by merocet at 7:49 AM on November 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I just pulled my copy of Fantasma down to see if I had put the headphones what came with it back in the CD case... alas no, they're gone. But there's still the dire warning label:
FANTASMA: The album you are about to hear was recorded using 3D microphones. Maximum listening pleasure can be achieved by using stereo earphones.
DIRECTIONS: Slowly place the stereo earphones in your ears before meals, at bedtime or as directed by your mother.
WARNING: DO NOT USE IF THE PLASTIC WRAPPING IS MISSING OR BROKEN!! Keep this and all other drugs out of the reach of parents.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 8:06 AM on November 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

I remember the first time I heard about Cornelius, back in high school: I had set my VCR to record one of those concert compendium shows that MTV or PBS would fill in the late night hours with, largely due to the fact that they were broadcasting a Kid A-era Radiohead show.

The next day I was fast-forwarding to see Thom & Co. when I caught a glimpse of this small, slightly scruffy Japanese dude, dressed in full jumpsuit (along with his band), leaping around the stage, molesting his theremin, and giving the audience a sampler to mash repeatedly, all the while pyrotechnic images flashing across the backdrop. By the time I'd sat through Count Five or Six (with the tiniest little Japanese girl rocking out some serious beats behind the kit), I was totally hooked.

Radiohead sounded bored and boring after that.
posted by SomaSoda at 9:14 AM on November 25, 2012

For some reason my musical year has been littered with the aftermath of shibuya-kei—began the year with an obsession with early-career Capsule and may end it trawling through the mid-2000s output of Kahimi Karie, so this is all very timely for me. Thanks!
posted by chrominance at 9:47 AM on November 25, 2012

Wow, fantastic. Fantasma is one of my favorite albums ever. Although I've liked what Cornelius has done since then (especially his remix of Blur's "Tender," which is so, so good), Fantasma is easily the best thing he's done. (I bought it when it came out because it was on Matador Records, at a time when they could do no wrong . . . that mid-90s Matador heyday produced a jaw-dropping amount of amazing music, including a string of Pizzicato 5 albums that stand among the best pop music I've ever heard.)
posted by Frobenius Twist at 10:03 AM on November 25, 2012

Ah, I should have known this is where I'd find my fellow travelers. Matador Records ftw. So much of this music colors individual trips to Japan. Thanks for this post.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 10:42 AM on November 25, 2012

I cannot believe it has been 15 years. This amazing album was a gift to my then-boyfriend from one of his friends. It is a strange and wonderful thing, and it completely blew my mind.

The 123456 song has been on Yo Gabba Gabba, which annoys me because I feel like it loses its meaning when taken out of context and it also makes it seem like a Seasame Street-esque kids' learning song, which it isn't. But I find Yo Gabba Gabba annoying in general.

Thanks for posting.
posted by jeoc at 11:31 AM on November 25, 2012

Got into this stuff through a Sushi compilation (mentioned above) and quickly became a huge fan of this kind of music, reviewing it for various early online music publications. I agree that Fantasma is the peak of the genre. Although these days if I do listen to Cornelius, it's probably something from Point. I still think Fantasma is a better record, but for whatever reason it just doesn't seem to fit into the rest of the tunes on the playlists I'm making these days. This post has inspired me to go back and listen all the way through again for the first time in years. Thanks!
posted by cell divide at 11:36 AM on November 25, 2012

jeoc: "it also makes it seem like a Seasame Street-esque kids' learning song, which it isn't."

I've never seen Yo Gabba Gabba, but Cornelius does all the music for an educational kids show about design here in Japan called "Design A". It's pretty darn good (the show, and the show's music).
posted by Bugbread at 2:09 PM on November 25, 2012

Cornelius does all the music for an educational kids show about design here in Japan called "Design A"

posted by Juliet Banana at 2:12 PM on November 25, 2012 [5 favorites]

I was living in Tokyo in 1997, and had already been turned on to Cornelius by a friend, and thought that 69/96 was groundbreaking world-shattering music. At the time, I thought Fantasma was a step back, and thought the earlier albums were still better. I doubt I'll be able to find my CDs anymore, so thank you for posting this, I'll have a listen again to see if 15 years has mellowed me enough to change my views on the subject.
posted by Metro Gnome at 2:33 PM on November 25, 2012

69/96 was seriously groundbreaking for 1995 and still has a few of my favorite things Oyamada's recorded (like "69/96 Girl Meets Cassette"). The production is all gritty distortion and much less accessible than Fantasma, but it holds up in its own way and is criminally unknown. It's also impossible to find, so I don't feel bad about linking to a copy here.
posted by naju at 4:19 PM on November 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Between Cornelius's Apples in Stereo collaboration and the EP Kahimi Karie did with The Olivia Tremor Control, I'm starting to wonder whether every great Japanese pop musician had an Elephant Six connection of some sort. Someone do me a favor and lock of Montreal and the Boredoms in a room together for a few days, will ya?
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 6:40 PM on November 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Bahrain's gonna party, dance everybody   |   MDMA's Therapeutic Benefits Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments