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Western critics often compare Cornelius (Keigo Oyamada) to Beck. If so, 69/96 is his Odelay, a gigantic leap from his debut only a year or two before -- and this was a year before Beck even released "Where It's At." Using a drum kit seemingly stolen from "When the Levee Breaks," but re-skinned with sandpaper, and vocals that come at the listener as if from some distant planet, Oyamada drops the earnest rock of his earlier work and seriously bugs out, delivering a varied plate of rock, breakbeats, and pop that samples unashamedly from the '80s, ditching the cultural context, and cleaning out your prejudiced ears in the process. Strong tracks are "Heavy Metal Thunder," a library of AC/DC and Queen riffs learned by a Martian, "How Do You Feel?" -- penned by Yasuharu Konishi of Pizzicato Five -- a psychedelic disco where sitar meets turntable, and "Moon Walk," where the drums come out in full force. And "Brand New Season" is as sweet a hula lullaby as they get. Western fans who know the follow-up, Fantasma, will find much to appreciate here. A centerpiece of Shibuya-kei that no comprehensive survey of that movement should be without.

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