On Kishi Bashis debut full length, 151a, the songwriter expands on the majestic sound of his Room for Dream EP (Aerobic International), teasing out the baroque mysteries suggested in those songs while sharpening focus. Since the release of Room for Dream, K Ishibashi has toured with Sondre Lerche, and Alexi Murdoch. He's also collaborated with of Montreal's Kevin Barnes on that bands new album, Paralytic Stalks. This last endeavour, Ishibashi credits with some of his most recent musical growth, acknowledging that Barnes pushed him to new heights of creativity, forcing him to explore a broader use of his primary instrument, the violin. This experimentation affected his loop-based live show and led to him write more of the new record with violin rather than piano or guitar, loosening him from the grip of habit and expanding his palette. Ishibashi uses Japenese singing as another of many layers, doing so without any trace of gimmickry, and achieving what, to Western ears, must sound like an expression of the ineffable.
After lead track "Intro/Pathos, Pathos," a soaring yet concise amalgam of all that is to come, the record unfolds with a gentle, and somehow grander revisiting of two songs from Room for Dream, reigniting their purpose with subtle variations that serve the larger arc of this new LP. From this foundation the record candidly affirms its suggested dialectic, a dance between the earthbound materialism of captured art and its airy origins, in the give and take of "It All Began With a Burst." The song appropriately struggles for take-off, whispering its intentions in washes of synthesizer that threaten to drown the claps and voices struggling to emerge, until a fragile harmony is realized in a bass-driven dance beat and desperately triumphant vocals.
From the deconstructed doo-wop of "Wonder Woman, Wonder Me," a 21st century transmission of Smile-era Brian Wilson that is both lush and blushingly naked to the menacing marriage of Eastern hues and Western operatics that is the Blade Runner-like trance of "Beat the Bright out of Me," this album is a mediation between opposing drives, offering possible reconciliation but never promising it. A nuanced awareness of inherent contradiction is constant in all of these songs, at turns jubilant, as in "Chesters Burst Over the Hamptons," a frenetic violin driven gallop full of stabs of sound and classical vocal harmonics that resolves in a synth and string composition worthy of Bach or Vangelis, and lamentable, most pronounced in the sweet despair of "I Am the Antichrist to You," which layers the delicate vocal melodies of the best of post-Beatles pop over a somber and beautiful New Age string arrangement.
If "I Am the Antichrist to You" is tragedy, then "Atticus, in the Desert" is comedy, albeit dark, bouncing and whistling with the acceptance of romantic failure, reaching for a fuller, more compassionate survey of the landscape. Starting with the admission, couched in the layered a capella not done so well since Queen, that "as twins we create an era, two souls in bright Sahara," a tale is told, over bright symphonic gypsy pop, of a doomed affair, and yet there is a palpable sense of acceptance and even enjoyment in the suffering.
It is fitting that, during the conception of this record, Ishibashi was mindful of the Japanese term "ichi-go ichi-e," a recognition of lifes transience, sometimes translated as "for this time only." Acknowledging that each moment happens only once, ichi-go ichi-e, reminds one to invest fully in these moments but also to let go of their outcome. It is in this practice that one opens the portals to both creativity and love and the results are clearly in evidence throughout this record with its synthesis of disparate formal elements and its unnerving look at contradiction.