Live Review: Cornelius @ The Forum, VIC

23 June 2023 | 2:36 pm | Guido Farnell

While it's always nice to hear these much-loved songs from the back catalogue, it’s a matter of fingers crossed for new material which Cornelius only releases sporadically.


Cornelius (Supplied)

Visiting from Sydney, Honey2Honey get the evening started with tunes that seemingly evolve from a sombre place of contemplation to build into insistent electro grooves that jump to a quirky beat. Rory Stenning’s deep droning vocals, which hover around the mix, are paired with a kind of Arthur Russell experimental attitude to dance music that mixes up a range of influences to create a wonky kind of freshness that brings to mind the eighties. The difference is that Honey2Honey are not exactly like anything you may have listened to way back then.

Shintaro Sakamoto exudes a very debonair but elegantly wasted charm when he appears on stage. From 1989 to 2010 and across more than twenty albums, Sakamoto led the ferocious psych rock outfit Yura Yura Teikoku. Although working within psych rock as a genre, everything Yura Yura Teikoku did sounded so fresh and original that exploring their work comes with plenty of rewards. 

Curiously when the Yura Yura Teikoku disbanded, Sakamoto started producing mellow pop music with plenty of groove and funk. Sakamoto effortlessly deals light and breezy tunes that sway to a deep, infectious groove. The vibe is always delightfully laidback and laced with a sense of melancholy, perhaps even boredom. Sakamoto’s band play it tight. The dude that played the harmonica on That Was Illegal breaks out the sax on You Just Decided for a solo that adds an air of inner-city sophistication in a cheesy 80s manner to the mix. The playful title track of Like A Fable gets the crowd dancing and Japanese ex-pats singing along. Although the riffs are simple, there is something so joyously feel-good about Sakamoto’s pop songs. The gigantic mirror ball is turned on for Disco Is. It’s a move that immediately puts a smile on everyone’s face as the band pump out a vague disco groove with a flute solo that bumps infectiously. Sakamoto dropped a gentle but fun set. While he draws ardent fans, it does feel like he deserves to have a bigger following. Unfortunately, the language barrier is still a hard one to crash. 

Inspired by the Planet Of The Apes, Keigo Oyamada changed his name to Cornelius and played a pivotal role in defining the Shibuya-kei style of pop that flourished in the nineties. While Cornelius’ discography isn’t exactly bursting at the seams, his reputation as a remarkable producer and the quality of his work has earned him something of a cult following around the world.

Its Cornelius’ acumen as a producer that ensures the sound broadcast from the Forum’s sound system is crystal clear. The playful Mic Check gets things started and featured green lasers drawing fun psychedelic animations on a curtain that concealed the band. This curtain dropped to reveal the band who launched into a spellbinding version of Point Of View Point. The band sounded fantastic, and they played with a tight, almost machine-like precision that is perfectly in sync with the immersive video projected on a giant screen behind the band.  

Sparks revelled in a sumptuous introspective indie-pop vibe. Audio Architecture follows in a similar vein, but it mesmerised the crowd with a fantastical contemplation about making music and the artistry that drives its creators. At times the band slips into swank lounge music that’s instantly likeable because it pushed out super groovy vibes. Count Five Or Six is an encounter with Sesame Street mentors teaching us how to count, accompanied by a hard rock workout. It’s a childish approach that Cornelius often takes, but he plays with wide-eyed innocence and often pushes simple ideas on flights of fancy into the parallel universes of his dreams. Unafraid to rock out harder I Hate Hate plays out loudly on the eardrums. The production is so unbelievably slick that frenzied guitars, at their aggressive best, come off sounding remarkably smooth. Moving from the dreamy synths of Surfing On Mind Wave to the angular charms of lusciously dreamy psychedelics of Gum to Star Fruits Surf Rider’s hazy pastel-coloured psychedelics.

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Our time with Cornelius tonight passed all too quickly. While it's always nice to hear these much-loved songs from the back catalogue, it’s a matter of fingers crossed for new material which Cornelius only releases sporadically.