K Ishibashi began work on his debut full-length, 151a, with an already impressive resume. Under the pseudonym of Kishi Bashi, the multi-instrumentalist has contributed his violin skills to artists like Regina Spektor, Sondre Lerche and most recently Of Montreal. These experiences with other artists color the tracks on 151a—Ishibashi especially enjoys the lively theatrics of Of Montreal—but this is without a doubt Ishibashi’s album. Well, it’s also his violin’s album as the stringed instrument is so dynamic here that it warrants its own introduction.
The first track on 151a is called “Intro/Pathos, Pathos.” Pathos is typically defined as something that appeals to a person’s emotions, which is an apt description of the sounds not only on the track but on the entire album. “Intro/Pathos, Pathos” is a triumphant celebration of joyous noise that combines violin, keyboard and vocal chants to build and swell in ways that would make Animal Collective proud. Like an adventurous dreamer, there’s a soaring serenity to Ishibashi’s songs. His luxuriant loop-based instrumentation on display is easy to lose yourself in, making your life seem, for just a moment, much more epic than it actually is.
A lot of writers will wax poetic over Ishibashi’s skill on the violin, but it bears mentioning that he is an adept guitarist as well. This is evident in the bottom half of the album where Ishibashi switches from cinematic indie pop to a more sublime folksy sound. Luckily Ishibashi’s voice provides rich harmonies that fit both of his musical sides equally. “Attacus, In The Desert,” a tune about disintegration of love, is a track that features Ishibashi’s folk-pop side, musically and vocally, as it takes him to Robin Pecknold heights. Ishibashi also sprinkles the tracks with various Japanese verses that add to the album’s already gorgeous atmosphere. It’s admirable then that Ishibashi wrote, produced and performed all of the instruments on the album because 151a feels like the work of many people. But alas, Ishibashi is his own one-man symphony.