Comparable to New Yorkers seeking out droplets from air-conditioning units to stay cool, Kishi Bashi, the newest musical project of multi-instrumentalist Kaoru Ishibashi, is a refreshingly creative solution to the problem of artistic pretension. The self-recorded, self-produced side project of a violin virtuoso initially known as “the Japanese looper with the Kickstarter campaign” has reached heights far superior to those of your average DIY electropop venture, while avoiding the gimmickry that often plagues many such projects. Ah…refreshing.
Amid stints with famed acts like Of Montreal (of which he is still a member), Sondre Lerche and Regina Spektor, Ishibashi has taken his violin and hit the road, solo. His full-length debut album, 151a, released in early April, features nine tracks that carry you through a dreamlike journey using a mélange of fantastical improvisation and deliberate composition.
What separates this Seattle-born string guru from his musical compatriots—Andrew Bird and Owen Pallett for their looping; Passion Pit for the upbeat frenzy of its dizzying instrumentals—is his intricate psychedelic indie-pop sound, which strikes a precise balance between falsetto vocals and calculated violin plucks, strums and swirls. His breath-of-fresh-air style can be heard in such crowd-pleasers as “Manchester,” where his voice crescendos as he coos, “I haven’t been this in love in a long time / The sun is up, the sun will stay” (a seeming acknowledgment of New York’s recent heat wave), and “Bright Whites,” a cherry ditty that marries an effervescent Japanese libretto to lighthearted hand claps. As the temperature climbs, look to Kishi Bashi for an oasis.—Maya Friedman