Images by Rhys Davies at The Old Natwest Bank, December 2019
Words by Hannah Tinker
Having graced many a medium as a producer, rapper and multi-instrumentalist, Algernon Cornelius has worked with the likes of R.A.P. Ferreira and Pijn as well as having shared stages with the likes of Armand Hammer, Cakes Da Killa, Shabazz Palaces, Moor Mother and many more. He's a stalwart amongst the Manchester and Leeds DIY scenes - Algernon performed for us at our collaborative takeover with Do Your Best of the Old Natwest Bank in Withington in December 2019 - has been presented at Gilles Peterson's We Out Here Festival and was due to perform at Sounds From The Other City. So why, may you ask, haven't you heard of him?
The answer, in short, is that you've not been looking hard enough. In his own words: "Who am I? That's a deep question. Just the drop shadow, no type. As for where? Where haven't I? It's already ended."
Cornelius creates music wholeheartedly under his own terms, void of any commercial input or influence from middlemen simply because there's no reason for there to be. The Algernon Cornelius project is entirely the musicians own. "It exists and that's about it." Thus, so far, you can only listen to his works if you purchase a digital or limited edition physical release via the artist himself or scour YouTube, keenly prepared with his name already in your minds eye. The fear of taking risks, is in itself, completely removed because there's no chance of contagion or external pressure. It's untainted.
Though there are, of course, influences - "If you can hear it it's obvious, but you have to feel it also" - but it's more so by way of their attitude and how they've exposed their own craft to the world. The late, great MF DOOM comes across as an inspiration to Cornelius. The enigmatic musician who, even in death, had us all hypothesising. But a working influence, that mirrors admiration of DOOM's method. Aesthetics don't come into it, instead soundscapes take center stage here: "Fuck aesthetic, it's about texture."
Now presenting his most comprehensive works yet, that we're fortunate to have a couple of copies of, is his debut album, The Miraculous Weapons of Clarkus_Dark, a fifteen-heavy-track offering of rap singles that was two days in the making, recorded across two weeks and finished/finessed over two years. The concepts of the album came together whilst on a trip to Portugal. "One time, when we were in Portugal, just a few miles up the road from where Madeleine McCann went missing, I ate this orange cake from a bakery. I took a bite and it was like all the memories of every orange I had ever eaten had been locked away inside until this moment where they were unleashed in a frenzy, like some black midi waterfall crashing the software, overload of information, but as crystal clear as the skies had been on that February morning." Miraculous Weapons is similarly, steeped in intensity and emotional range, broaching on hard-hitting topics following the aftermath of a breakdown and the death of two close friends. But, as goes the nature of the mechanism, you'll have to listen for yourself.
The entirety of this project is about being aware of and standing by your own worth. Supporting yourself and your talents, individually. Nurture yourself. Summarised exactly by Algernon's parting words to our readers: "...use your leftovers to make gorgeous meals out of sheer respect for yourself."