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Art-rock wizard Cornelius casts a powerful spell

January 17, 2008|Charlie Amter and Cynthia Dea

Keigo Oyamada -- better known to U.S. fans as Cornelius -- has been called "the Japanese Beck," but the multi-instrumentalist would rather be compared to a studio wizard like Daniel Lanois or Brian Wilson. "I like Beck, and we are similar in some ways," he says via e-mail from his Tokyo studio. "But I think we have our differences too."

Tonight, Angelenos will get a chance to decide for themselves whom Cornelius most resembles when he plays Disney Hall as part of the L.A. Phil's Concrete Frequency series in what should be one of the more talked-about gigs in art-rock circles. His sets feature dazzling computer-generated visuals and lighting in perfect sync with his band.

Cornelius' most recent release -- "Sensuous" on L.A.-based Everloving Records, his new U.S. label -- is just that, with hypnotic, effects-laden tracks such as "Watadori." But the more interesting offerings are ambient jazz-like tunes such as "Toner," in which he uses an ink-jet printer as an instrument.

The 38-year-old has a sizable following in the U.S., thanks to several late-'90s releases on Matador Records, including 1997's lauded "Fantasma." But he's especially looking forward to tonight, one of only five U.S. gigs for him this winter. "Reactions seem to come back quickly from American audiences compared to Japanese audiences," he says. 9 tonight, Disney Hall, downtown L.A. $28 to $37. www.laphil.com

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A SAMPLER OF ALL THINGS JAPAN

Beard Papa, 333 S. Alameda St., L.A., (213) 620-0710; beardpapa.com. The Osaka cream-puff chain's been dubbed the next Pinkberry, given the addictive nature of its pastries (and expansion). This Little Tokyo outpost opened last month.

Famima!!, 8525 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 659-2684; famima-

usa.com. An offshoot of Japan's Family Mart conven-

ience stores, the chain began its first U.S. store in WeHo three years ago. Today, it has 13 U.S. locations, all in SoCal.

Giant Robot, 2015 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A., (310) 478-1819; giantrobot.com. Surrounded by streetwear shops like Blu 82, Eric Nakamura's store started a mini-revolution in 2002 and is going strong with T-shirts, prints and multiple locations.

Japan L.A., 648 N. Fuller Ave., L.A., (323) 934-5201; japanla.com. Jamie Rivadeneira's shop is crammed with offbeat finds such as Tare Panda ("lazy panda") products, Gloomy Bear phone charms and Domokun bath sponges.

Momo, 308 N. Stanley Ave., L.A., (323) 964-5240. A boutique specializing in designs from Japan.

Musha, 1725 W. Carson St., B, Torrance, (310) 787-7344. Many items, including the beloved fried chicken, are fusion-inspired, but the dimly lighted dining room cultivates a Tokyo bar vibe. (Also, 424 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica)

Otafuku Noodle House, 16525 S. Western Ave., Gardena, (310) 532-9348. Subtler than ramen, the buckwheat noodles here are handmade and served hot in a bowl of bonito-based broth or cold with a dipping sauce.

Phaze Bar, 20801 S. Western Ave., Torrance, (310) 328-5899. Hidden behind the Torrance Plaza Hotel, it brings in travelers and locals hoping to catch a baseball game. Later, a young crowd moves in.

popKiller, 343 E. 2nd St., L.A., (213) 625-1372; pop killer.us. Ricky Takizawa's second store is already a near institution with its selection of hip T-shirts and accessories.

Popmonster, 24416 Crenshaw Blvd., Torrance, (310) 325-8686. It carries fashion lines such as Toki Doki, toys, books and graphic novels.

Santouka Ramen, Mitsuwa Market Place, 21515 Western Ave., Torrance, (310) 212-1101. For those in the cult of ramen, this is the holy grail, at least stateside. The Hokkaido-based chain sets up shop counter- style within Mitsuwa food courts. (Also 665 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa, and 3760 S. Centinela Ave., L.A.)

Shabon, 7602 Beverly Blvd., L.A., (323) 692-0061. Rie Fujii's smart boutique has fresh finds, mostly vintage dresses and accessories, and attracts such shoppers as Nicole Richie and Winona Ryder.

Shin Yakitori, 22807 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, (310) 378-1019; shinyakitori dining.com. This relative newcomer has reasonably priced yakitori. For the more adventurous, there's motsu nabe (intestine) hot pot.

For more finds, go to latimes.com/japanese

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