Let’s be honest, Cornelius is not for everyone. For the average music listener it mostly sounds like a drunk falling through a music shop triggering every demo button and bashing loads of instruments with each flail. Unfortunately, there were times during my experience listening to Mellow Waves where I would have preferred to have heard that instead.
Opening with the smooth If You’re Here I was impressed by the labyrinthine composition. It builds organically from a simple beat, Rhodes piano and vocal combination, into an intricately woven blanket of sounds, almost like it’s made up of different instruments only playing on one beat of every bar. The vocals hold it all together immaculately, otherwise I suspect it would sound like a one man band being dipped into concrete and gradually slowing to a stop as he dries.
Sometime / Someplace dials the tempo back up, being less start/stop by using a quick hi-hat to give a solid drive to the track. I found it to be the standout track on the album while the third track Dear Future Person continues in the same pleasant style but is entirely forgettable.
After the soothing opening three songs you could be forgiven for thinking you were listening to a slightly more complicated Air album but on track four the album starts to go offroad as the frustrating Surfing on Mind Wave (pt 2) smothers you in its cloying embrace as the aforementioned drunk sits on a keyboard for five minutes churning out a single chord on a patch labelled “Annoying Swirly Sound”. For me it breaks the pace of the album and goes on for far too long. No, that’s not quite it: I felt asphyxiated by it as if being force-fed Polyfilla.
Worse still is Helix/Spiral which may, in all honesty, be the poorest song I’ve heard this decade. A combination of Daft Punk vocals repeating the song title over and over, an annoying arpeggiator and a repetitive bass squelch for three and a half minutes that manages to feel longer than the worst entry from a country you’ve never heard of in Eurovision. Spliced in between these two calamities of alleged music is the decent single In A Dream which now feels alone and lost like a lovable but unwanted puppy.
It’s difficult to understand what Cornelius is trying to achieve with Mellow Waves. There are some lovely moments dotted here and there but far too often the good ideas have been bloated past listeners limits as if the aim of the album is to test our patience. Often you get the impression that it’s trying to be too clever and has spilled over into pretension. For all its attempts to be “mellow” many of the tones or dynamics throughout simply jar, becoming a distraction and weakening the enjoyment. The balance feels off throughout – either flat and lifeless or just confused and annoying. That said, songs like Sometime / Someplace and The Spell of a Vanishing Loveliness show what the album could have been if more creative restraint had been adopted.
Mellow Waves is out on 21st July via Rostrum Records.