EP REVIEW: Algernon Cornelius – ‘Sarni Deli’

'If you like ambient instrumental stuff with a hard edge, a conceptual story to tell and a heart of funk, then this is the stuff for you'


This is interesting stuff recently released by the Manchester-based hip-hop producer. It’s his second release, following on from his soul-inspired mix-tape stylee offering of ‘Happiness’ in September of last year. It’s entirely instrumental, experimental in nature, based around live improvisation, sequencing and recording which gives it a fresh, edgy, pacey feel.

The concept behind the tracks is based upon the life and works of its eponymous character, Sarni Deli. We are told that he’s a 22nd Century architect, alchemist and fugitive who finds himself ensconced in the dystopian horror that is the future of our planet. The songs reflect his work and dreams to rebuild mankind and civilisation in a format that moves away from the memes that got us all so messed up in the first place. This is a good back story that works well for the tunes presented here.

It employs simple musical instrumental loops, breakbeats, scratched sample phrases, electronic glitch utterances, multi-layered production and inventive beat construction. All these noises and rhythmic devices do well to take us out onto the streets of a troubled urban future. All of the tracks have funk and rhythm well embedded within them, augmented by bass drone foundations, over the top of which the more ethereal noises are juxtaposed with dexterity and skill. Whilst evoking dystopia they are not unpleasant to listen to, the groove carrying us along nicely and making us want to shake our hips, as well as howl in horror in the milieu in which we find ourselves.

If you like early Chemical Brothers then you will like this. It has a very similar feel and soundscape, equivalent grooviness and very similar sonic architecture. In places it resembles some of Radiohead’s more experimental work from the latter phases of their career. There are thirteen tracks in total and they are well combined to lead us on what feels like a little biography of this interesting and intriguing character.

I enjoyed it on my first listen and quickly went back for more. It stands to repeated aural exposure and because of its multi-layered construction it continues to impress and give the listener novel tropes and sound combinations to find in each track on subsequent listenings. I think this music would make the perfect soundtrack for driving in an urban setting. It wouldn’t surprise me if these tracks were snapped up by futuristic film-makers and ad-men when looking for something cool to play under their images of a future gone wrong.

If you want to listen to something interesting, fresh, different and groovy then you could do worse than this. The stand out tracks for me are Sarni Deli, Heavy Rain, IWFY, San José, The Gold and King Skin, but they’re all good. Listening to the whole thing in sequence as a work of sonic art is probably the best way to appreciate it and that’s what I’ve been doing with it since first being asked to pen this review. If you like ambient instrumental stuff with a hard edge, a conceptual story to tell and a heart of funk, then this is the stuff for you.

Algernon Cornelius on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/algernoncorneliusmusic

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Sean Kavanagh is a poet, music devotee and free thinker rapidly approaching his 50s