I have heard Fantasm described as ‘the Japanese Beck.’ It’s a comparison that sounds kind of ridiculous but is also kind of appropriate. It’s inappropriate inasmuch as Cornelius had been releasing music with Flipper’s Guitar well before Beck was known to most of us (is Beck, therefore, the American Cornelius?) but it is appropriate inasmuch as they both seem to approach the world in a similar way. (Rather, Beck used to approach the world this way too. He doesn’t really write stuff like this any more.)
Cornelius’ music appears to have few boundaries: he assembles a whole host of genres together, many of which do not go together, and often within the same song. Why the Beck comparison seems to fit is because they both appeared to approach popular music is a similar way: take a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and smash it into each other.
And Cornelius certainly has a knack for melody. This stuff is undeniably catchy.
And that’s one of the things I struggle with. If we’re going to stick with the Beck comparison, Beck’s mid 90s work was significantly more difficult and weirder and more abrasive. This is very poppy stuff. It likely works for most people. I’d prefer more grit, more weirdness.
The other thing is the lyrics (and vocals): it must be very hard to write in a language other than your native language, but Cornelius’ lyrics, such as they are, are disposable (like much of the music he is inspired by) and his voice (much like any person singing a foreign language) is an acquired taste. In addition, he replaces lyrics with counting/spelling programs on not just one track, but a couple. One track would be fine but multiple tracks feels like a cop out. And so I get hung up on it.
But this is still really interesting music that is worth checking out and I suspect I will check out his other records.