Cornelius at Webster Hall

Post Author: Karen Fu

It’s about time the Japanese Beck paid a righteous visit to his tough as steel fans of New York City. I had an attached-to-the-hip soft spot for Cornelius (the Planet of the Apes moniker for originally-named Keigo Oyamada– wicked!) after several fluid whirls of his recent album Sensuous on the subway. Live shows reveal true essence at the core, right? I couldn’t help thinking, “is this deviously constructive one-man show the Real Deal”?

But this Webster Hall show proved him to be neither slick charlatan nor next-level amateur. Oh man, is he better than that; he’s an architect of brilliantly spatial authenticity. Embodied in his soundscape is a polished work, a sensuous, synchronized audio-visual ecstasy.

Cornelius’s music subtly drips with disarming charm, like the minute balance of Calder mobiles. It’s a classic four-piece rock band mingled with chimes, eccentric integration of violin bows, and experimental contraptions that incite Richter waves. There are moments of dissolving calm, suddenly shadowed by a racket of rapture as if Cornelius transforms himself into a tempest. For any other band, this equation of highs and lows would blend into a moody concoction of bland, foggy Japanese-indie rock.

But crucially, at the core of The Cornelius Group is absolute precision and stoic-faced composure, (to the point of practiced perfection), in a truly, disturbingly, uncanny way. Seriously. Nary a superfluous motion, or unsteady performance. (Or acknowledgment of the crowd for that matter, until before the encore when they graciously took pics, delicately bowed, and flashed customary peace fingers like every other 15-year old Asian female posing for pictures.)

Hard rawkers would assume a docile, tepid persona in this kind of grace, but that’s when you know you’re looking in the wrong place, diverting yourself away from the heart of Zen-listening. The Japanese aesthetic is widely known for a stark minimalism that begs one to read between the notes while presenting an easy functionality on the ears: complex, efficient, even supple.

Equilibrium carried over to his projections, too, for a sweet all-senses simulcast. Naturally, Cornelius is not just a musician, but one with artistic wiles. Go see The Cornelius group — though nabbing them is a globe trotting trip– to find tranquility and a suddenly simple state of mind.