Music

Kishi Bashi: 151a

Singer/violinist/multi-instrumentalist K Ishibashi takes some cues from both Andrew Bird and Animal Collective and creates a lovely debut album that's equal parts romantic yearning and playful non-sequiturs.


Kishi Bashi

151a

US Release: 2012-04-10
Label: Joyful Noise
UK Release: 2012-04-10
Website
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

The best spot-the-influence albums don't just work obvious reference points into new shape via synthesis -- they match or better those influences on their home turf. On his debut solo album, K Ishibashi (aka Kishi Bashi) doesn't bother ducking the Andrew Bird and Owen Pallett comparisons that are bound to dog him as a solo pop violinist/multi-instrumentalist, and he seemingly makes no bones about his admiration for Animal Collective. That Ishibashi occasionally slips into Japanese in his songs is indicative of his overall approach; on 151a: He proves himself conversant in many languages without sacrificing his own idiosyncratic vision.

Ishibashi, also the singer-guitarist for New York pop outfit Jupiter One, has spent the last few years playing live solo shows, looping layers of sound on top of each other to create a compact orchestral sound. 151a reflects this approach in the interlocking repetitive lines underlying many of the compositions. But it's the strong central melodies and a lyrical flood of romantic sentiment, bonkers imagery, and pop culture debris that propel these tunes along.

On the early album high point "Manchester", he tracks the potential of a burgeoning love affair through literary metaphor from first page to novel to sequel to happy-sad ending: "My favorite part's when I die / In your arms like a movie / It's tragic, but now the story has its proper end". Ishibashi juxtaposes these long-term aspirations with gently spoken overtures ("Oh hello / Will you be mine? / I haven't felt this alive in a long time"), building both the fantasy and reality of the relationship from delicately plucked violin to sweeping strings. By the end of "Manchester", it's impossible to separate hope for the future from excitement of the present, and equally impossible to not get caught up in the song's bliss.

The dramatic and romantic particularly suit Ishibashi. Another highlight, "Bright Whites", immediately follows "Manchester", and it's even bigger and brighter in approach but with darker ambiguities embedded throughout. Over a folky, "Cecilia"-esque stomp, Ishibashi sketches another smitten lover, but this one's a little more unhinged, a little less like long-term boyfriend material: "After you said that you liked Big Red / I opened up my mind and skipped a beat / Cufflinks and hands in wrong places and faces / and creepy little movies made me weep". With dips into social commentary and doubts about the present ("We're living in a land that went astray from history") and a sweetly-sung, falsetto Japanese refrain that translates partially into "can't take it anymore", there's quite a bit more going on here than suggested by the relaxed McCartney-esque vocal delivery in the verses. This hints at some of the grim romantic impulses that crop up in the later part of the album. "Atticus, in the Desert" pairs cinematic strings with campfire whistling to accompany the slow fade of love, although the lyric sheet suggests he can't resist the odd music nerd pun ("What began as an epic / Ended a Partched pathetic / Arid and valid like our attachments"). On "I Am the Antichrist to You", Ishibashi sets an ambiguous, falsetto-sung love story with a backdrop of fallen angels and burned souls to echo-drenched plinking.

When not preoccupied with the upsides and downsides of big romance, Ishibashi keeps things playfully varied and weird, affecting hyperactive Animal Collective on "It All Began With a Burst" and "Chester's Burst Over the Hamptons" and dropping references to Wonder Woman, Highlander, and The Fast and the Furious elsewhere.

Perhaps it's this exciting restlessness, combined with obvious instrumental talents, that explains why Kevin Barnes tapped Ishibashi to collaborate on Of Montreal's recent Paralytic Stalks. There's a similar mutability of styles at play on 151a, although they're at peace with each other, far less tortured and schizophrenic than Barnes' psychodrama. With his influences unabashedly on display — but never used as a crutch — and a sentimental streak that never comes across as mushy, Ishibashi's lack of self-consciousness turns out to be 151a's most appealing quality.

7


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.

Music

Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.

Film

The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.

Music

Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.

Music

Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.

Music

The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.

Music

Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."

Music

The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.

Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.