The endless bag of tricks that Cornelius (the alias of avant-popster Keigo Oyamada) seems to have at his disposal and his undeniable talent as a sampler make Point, a potentially formulaic album, such a triumph. Cornelius is so good at regulating the give-and-take of his layered compositions that, rather than coming off as stiff and mechanical, they sound alive, constantly in motion. From a simple repeated-riff and sampled voice motif, “Point of View Point” blossoms effortlessly into a sparkling summertime anthem. “Another View Point” is a hypnotic, escalating pattern of electric guitar squeals. “Nowhere,” all weepy horns and crashing waves, is a swirling brew of post-honeymoon nostalgia. But while most studio artists end up overwhelming listeners with impossibly dense sample-scapes (Cornelius’ own Fantasma was one of those everything-and-the-kitchen-sink records, albeit an especially good one), Point is an effortless listen, achieving a flawless balance between noise and space. It is this extra breathing room that shows where Cornelius is coming from: rather than show off the size of his record collection, he is fascinated with the musicality of noise in and of itself. Hence the amazing sensuousness of the swishing water in “Drop” and the long stream of white noise that ends the album ever so gradually. Raucous hardcore punk (“I Hate Hate”) sits comfortably beside twee synth-pop (“Brazil”), proving that all sounds are indeed created equal. Point is as much an earnest exploration of texture and timbre, of music’s capacity to caress and disorientate, as it is a collection of bright melodies and jaunty rhythms.
Point’s greatest accomplishment is that it defies easy categorization. Cornelius’ unaffected approach to his music lets him stand in a privileged position outside genre boundaries, free to grab whatever suits him, looping and tweaking it to fit into his grand framework of sound. The result is catchy yet structureless, informed by decades of pop music but empowered by technology: Post-pop, perhaps? Until his imitators inevitably arrive, Cornelius will remain a fascinating, utterly original figure. Rating: 5/5
—Ryan J. Kuo
“I’m going to represent the black women of the world with this,” Ms. Toi announces in her official bio. What this ambitious West Coast hip-hop rookie’s representin’ entails is a take-no-prisoners aggression, unapologetic sexuality and an obstinate independence.
Ms. Toi dubbed her debut That Girl, because after she lent spitfire to Ice Cube and Mack 10’s “You Can Do It” for the Next Friday soundtrack, that became her most common moniker. First she resisted the label; then she embraced it. After the decade of grabbing for MC fame that led Ms. Toi no further than the gender gap, this inspirational exchange, sputtered over an admittedly tight beat, was all it took to get her signed to a major label: “Ms. Toi: You can do it put your back into it / Ice Cube: I can do it put your ass into it.”
Very well. Ms. Toi has no problem with booty per se, and though the dubious plum Russian fur hat and similarly purple vinyl attire she sports on the cover of her album bespeaks bling, she has more to offer. Track after track, she never lets up on the flow—or the venom—though her insistence occasionally gives way to repetition. The best tracks are those in which she forgoes the lackluster, quasi-operatic sampling for the rhymes she does best. Unfortunately, given the as yet unspectacular reception of her November release, the world may not be ready yet. Rating: 4/5