t’s hard to blame Cornelius for stringing us along with cast-off material from 2001’s Point like PM and Point 5.1. Among other pursuits, he’s become a father in the time between Point and his newest album, Sensuous. What’s surprising, however, is the fact that Cornelius wasn’t so sick of Point that he decided to go in another direction altogether. No worries: in the interim he seems to have found an almost childlike energy that’s taking his old ideas in all sorts of directions.
More than anything else, Sensuous sounds like something off Nobukazu Takemura’s label Childisc. Like Takemura, Cornelius makes what is essentially children’s music for adults, spurning steady beats and bass for playful bare-bones electro-funk. Take “Breezin’,” the album’s second single and one of Cornelius’s career highlights. The precious little reverb and flat mixing make everything sound refreshingly in-your-face even with the spare instrumentation and its two-dollar synth tingle.
It’s this instrumentation that keeps Sensuous together in the face of Cornelius’s kitchen-sink song-scaping. On each track, we’ve got Sensuous playing a number of Childisc-like roles: low-key guitar funk, day-dreaming synth pop, prepared guitar, and on Side 2, ambient electronic, Shibuya punk, and a couple of story-filled nights’ worth of lullabies. In the end, it’s a lot to swallow. As with Point and 1998’s Fantasma, Cornelius has almost too many ideas.
With Point, Cornelius finally figured out how to sculpt those ideas into a cohesive, flowing unit. Sensuous sees him going back to the drawing board with twelve sketches of off-the-wall, brilliant directions Cornelius could have gone in. There’s vague bits of American and Japanese pop, but they seem to float in and out of the mix without context. You might hear a synth line that reminds you of Moroder or Stevie Wonder packed into one of his loose, skittering jams, but these referents are discarded quickly; Cornelius’s mind moves too fast to settle on any one thing for long.
Nick Southall’s review of Point poses the question: Is Cornelius independently creative or just a rampant cultural consumer? This album contains evidence supporting both points, with truly innovative sounds adorning and abutting a number of half-finished ideas. It’s a little disjointed, more enigmatic, and more confounding than its predecessors: a gentle, mysterious giant of an album that could only have been created by a father.