Often musicians come into their own after several albums, filling out their sound as they go. This is not the case for violinist K Ishibashi (aka Kishi Bashi). Hailing from the West Coast of the US, he has released a debut with a sound so full-bodied and rich, you hear something new with each listen.
While this may be his debut album, Kishi Bashi has made a name for himself as the touring violinist for artists like Regina Spektor and Sondre Lerche. It was his most recent work with the band of Montreal on their latest album, Paralytic Stalks, that he claims to have been pushed to new heights of creativity, which caused him to experiment with layered music.
Rather than following typical song structure, each track on the album is comprised of independent elements stitched together to create dynamic and ever-evolving pieces.
The majority of the noticeable influences create an overall throwback feel to the album with Kishi Bashi delving into a range of classic influences. However, pinning down all of his musical influences is not easy. With each song, you find elements of something familiar – the Beatles’ oriental experimentations, Leonard Cohen’s storytelling, of Montreal’s playfulness, Bjork’sadventurousness. This sense of familiarity is a welcomed feature, allowing you to latch onto something comfortable while digesting the abundance of layers and elements of the album in its entirety.
It opens with the soaring ‘Intro / Pathos, Pathos’, beginning with a wash of thick but gentle harmonies before breaking into a happy beat covered generously in layers of sound. From there, the album travels through, continuing that joyfulness – even on tracks that he may not have intended. For example, ‘Atticus, In The Desert’, with its lyrics “What began as an epic, ended a parched pathetic, arid and vapid like our attachments”, still breaks into cheerful whistling.
It is as if he is incapable of performing melancholic music. The closest he gets is in ‘Wonder Woman, Wonder Me’ – a track of beautiful doo-wop inspired harmonies – or ‘I Am the Antichrist to You’ – a mysterious track with flowing melodies and cinematic orchestral parts.
However, rather than turning 151a into something flippant, Kishi Bashi is able to work this cheerfulness without making it light-hearted for an album that offers rich, complex music that makes you smile.
This review originally appeared on Musika.
You can listen to the track ‘Bright Whites’ from 151a on the July 2012 edition of theMusika podcast.