Think Outside the Boombox: Kishi Bashi presents a perfect concoction of classical violin and indie-pop experimentation

Music columnist Patrick McKenna discusses the solo artist’s sophomore effort

By Patrick McKenna | May 6, 2014

Tags: Music Reviews

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For someone who began his career as a session player and touring member of the supremely bizarre indie squad Of Montreal, solo artist Kishi Bashi has paved his way into being recognized as one of indie pop’s most experimental and exciting latest acts.

Raised by two college professors, K. Ishibashi studied classical music and eventually became a renowned violinist. After being recruited by artists ranging from Regina Spektor, Sondre Lerche and Of Montreal to supply violin to their live sound, he made his way up in the ranks of violinists contributing to pop music and eventually was able to branch off with his own solo project. He released his debut album, 151a, in 2012 and was met with positive reviews. Both “Bright Whites” and “Manchester” would become semi-hits. With a radiant and provocative mix of classical orchestra violin and voice/instrumentation loops, his style sounds somewhere in between chamber-pop guru Andrew Bird and indie-rock aficionados Grizzly Bear.

With a warm demeanor and a musical palate that screams for creating a new sound, Kishi Bashi has returned with his second LP, Lighght. A collection of tracks that display both Kishi Bashi’s awareness for improvisation on violin, keyboards and acoustic guitar and a beautiful falsetto, the album is far superior to his already-solid debut.

The album opens with a 48-second violin solo. Titled “Debut: Impromptu,” Bashi bobs and weaves the notes he releases at machine-gun authority, spinning the classical sounds of violin into a hurricane of sound. It seems like a mission statement for the album, declaring an ability to experiment and play unconventionally at any given moment, while still demonstrating an impeccable taste for the origins of his instrument’s sound.

From there, Lighght expands into a horizon of trip-hop, electro-pop, baroque-pop and just a touch of psychedelic wonder. Kishi Bashi presents an album so encompassing of a strong variety of musical elements, it’s as if he traveled through three generations to produce his sound. The luscious violin is what separates him from most other indie outfits, on top of his experimental structuring of songs.

On “Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It!,” the album’s undisputed champion track and lead single, Kishi Bashi transitions from layers of flowing strings to bumping synth beats, with Bashi’s vocals reaching heights never before heard in his previous material.
The album offers a wonderful ratio of upbeat, adventurous tracks like “The Ballad of Mr. Steak” and “Carry on Phenomenon,” while still leaving plenty of room for his magnificent violin sound on “Philosophize” and “Hahaha Pt. 1&2,” among others.

Kishi Bashi’s radio-friendly and easily accessible stylings are a rare gem in pop music.

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