I didn't really know much about Japanese rock outfit Cornelius before going to see them Webster Hall last night, other than they performed the closing concert at LA's Concrete Frequency festival two weeks ago and that they were named after the character in Planet of the Apes. Good enough for me.
Opening was the Benevento/Russo Duo, who Ronen turned me onto six months ago. Together, Marco Benevento (Moog and other electronics) and Joe Russo (drums) use repeating themes, changing tempos, and complex harmonies that build to ecstatic climaxes. To me, it sounded like an electronic version of Bruckner: check their title track from debute release "Play Pause Stop"
Cornelius' stage show was obviously built for the YouTube generation. Called "Sensuous Synchronized Show," bandleader Keigo Oyamada has worked with a team of designers and engineers to develop a full multimedia presentation, mixing lights with a digital video that includes everything from computer generated images, to old Warner Brothers cartoons. Impressively, the entire scheme is in sync with the performance: Oyamada says it's not meant to simply augment the performance, but becomes another instrument within it."
At first, the music was plodding and oversimplistic, and I began to think the images were more crutch than complement (much as I thought they were at Michael Gordon's Dystopia a couple of weeks ago.) But, about a half-hour in, the band let it rip in "Gum", and the whole stage became a hailstorm of images and speed guitar. The packed house of normally reserved indie kids went berserk.
The band went back and forth between thrashing and sedate numbers, mixing keyboards, Theremin, electronic effects, guitars played with bows, and a whole array of chimes and bells. They ended up playing for a full 100 minutes - and then got called back for a 20 minute encore, for which they had a whole additional light/video show. Just good bubblegum fun, with maybe a social message or two thrown in a la Murakami. I can't even imagine what this show must have been like in Disney Hall; I won't even dream of seeing it in one of our stuckup music temples. Thank God for Bowery Presents.