Brave New Whirligig

Kishi Bashi


Joyful Noise Records, 2014

Review by Kent Manthie

The brand new Kishi Bashi album, Lighght, is to be released May 13, 2014 on Joyful Noise Records. The title Lighght, is a one-word poem by Aram Saroyan.

Kishi Bashi is the pseudonym of singer, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter Kaoru Ishibashi that he adopted when he started on his solo career. Lighght is his second full-length CD and his third, overall, release, the EP, Room for Dream.

Born in Seattle, Washington, Ishibashi grew up in Norfolk, Virginia due to his parents being professors at Old Dominion University.

After graduating from Matthew Fontaine Maury High School, in 1994, Ishibashi studied classical music, eventually becoming an accomplished violinist.

Foregoing the kind of career in the classical music sphere or one in academia, Ishibashi decided to pursue what he had come to realize what his creativity mixed with his virtuosity foreshadowed: avant-garde artistry in the vein of music. When I first heard Kishi Bashi, I soon found the music sounding a lot like Athens, GA-based of Montreal. Imagine my surprise then, while doing a bit of research for this review, I learned that Ishibashi had been working as a touring member with of Montreal.

He has also done other feats such as recording with and touring internationally as a violinist with diverse artists such as Regina Spektor, Sondre Lerche, and most recently, of Montreal.

Ishibashi also founded New York synth-rock band Jupiter One. It was in 2011 that Ishibashi started performing as a solo artist, doing opening gigs for Alexi Murdoch, Sondre Lerche and (surprise) of Montreal, whom he supported on the 2012 spring tour. Shortly thereafter, Ishibashi joined the touring troupe of Kevin Barnes circus-like of Montreal.

Kishi Bashi’s first EP, Room For Dream, came out in May 2011 on Aerobic International. Room For Dream features four songs, including a duet with Kevin Barnes and can only be purchased from downloading platforms such as iTunes or Bandcamp. He has often been compared to Andrew Bird and Owen Pallett.

Kishi Bashi’s first full-length record, 151a, was released by Joyful Noise Recordings on April 10, 2a’ is in Japanese), which carries a meaning012 after receiving partial funding through Kickstarter. The title, 151a, refers to a Japanese-language idiom which, transliterated, has a meaning close to “once in a lifetime”.

The album begins with a 47-second introduction, entitled, “Debut – Impromptu”, which goes right into “Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It”. After that, one of my favorites, “The Ballad of Mr. Steak” follows. These three songs were the ones that really had me feeling a familiar feeling – I was hearing of Montreal-style songs, which isn’t a typical thing, knowing how innovative and inventive Kevin Barnes & Co. are. Another cut which really amazed me was “Once Upon a Lucid Dream (in Afrikaans)”, which has both that of Montreal groove as well as this happy, carefree summertime vibe, circa 1975-76, but with a more modern, 21st Century sound. Then there’s “Hahaha Pt.1” and “Hahaha Pt. 2” which are cloud-hopping, psychedelic, kaleidoscopic trips. “Pt.1” is a bit on the bubbly, danceable side, whereas, “Pt.2”, grooves down, with a bumpin’ beat and sky-blue smiley-faces, but deeper and slowed down a tad.

The finale, “In Fantasia”, a seven-minute ballad-esque dream-like romp through fantasyland. Maybe “ballad-esque”is the wrong word to use, but it is slowed down, it isn’t melancholy or sad, just a chill-out ending for a really strong album that has overtones of outer-space, clowns, neon lights, kitty-cats and moonbeams.

Don’t get me wrong – Kishi Bashi is not some derivative of of Montreal; some kind of influence is there, but Ishibashi has his own imprimatur on this and it’s a delicious, tasty snack, with a fun-filled center! -KM.

Kishi Bashi Lighght cover

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