K Ishibashi co-founded the band Jupiter One in New York back in 2003. The group released two albums of guitar-driven, generic pop-rock songs that featured Ishibashi’s voice but said little about his expertise on the violin; he flaunted that talent mostly as a touring violinist for artists like Regina Spektor. But his name and his instrumental skills are scooting to the foreground this year with the release of Of Montreal‘s Paralytic Stalks, on which he handled the string arrangements, and with the upcoming debut of his first solo, Kickstarter-funded album as Kishi Bashi, titled 151a (Joyful Noise). Under the wing of Of Montreal’s mad scientist Kevin Barnes, Ishibashi trained his attention on expanding the sounds of his violin. And on Saturday night, he shared his progress, unleashing a torrent of loop-based music at Webster Hall.
Lots of teens and early 20-somethings comprised the crowd of the 18-plus, sold-out show, starring Of Montreal—who knew teenagers cared so much about a ’90s-formed band of oddballs?—and though there was some chatter at the start, most people shut up once Ishibashi began. The American-born performer of Japanese descent, who calls Norfolk, VA, home, wore a button down, dark jeans, a blue-and-orange-striped bow tie and a printed scarf as a belt—a look that was like J.Crew through a funhouse. His mullet-meets-mohawk hair stuck straight up from his head, giving the impression that, had the sides of his head not been buzzed, he might’ve looked like he’d survived a cartoon-style electrocution. Ishibashi played alone, but if you had closed your eyes, you wouldn’t have guessed it; his violin and vocal loops gave the impression of there being more players. They weren’t enough to suggest a full band though, and it would’ve been nice to give the guy a rhythm section.
Ishibashi’s pop with Jupiter One was straightforward, but he’s much more avant-garde with his solo material. You could hear the Of Montreal influence in the way his violin played with dissonance and skittering instrumental sounds without ever walking away from a strong melody. It showed up in his singing too: Though Ishibashi’s vocal has more meat to it than Barnes’s, he can sing in that floating, detached way that Barnes does. Some of his song titles could also fit in with the Of Montreal catalog: “I would like to do a love song for you guys,” he said. “This song is called ‘I Am The Antichrist To You.'”
During his short set, Ishibashi plucked, bowed and strummed his violin, attempted some beat-boxing, toyed with the pedals at his feet and threw in some Japanese verses. He was at his playful best on “Bright Whites” and “It All Began With A Burst,” two of the strongest tracks from 151a. By the time he got to his closer, “Manchester,” it seemed like his enthusiasm almost got the best of him, as his violin playing almost outpaced the beats he’d set with his violin loops. But how could you not come close to running off the rails when you’re playing such unabashedly joyous music? Ishibashi’s set left me feeling so energized that I had to leave halfway through Loney, Dear’s first song, afraid that the drab folk would kill my buzz.