On the 10th anniversary of his debut album, Kishi Bashi still celebrates every moment | The music

By Daniel Durchholz | Special for Post-Shipment

When vocalist and violinist Kaoru Ishibashi, who performs as Kishi Bashi, performed in St. Louis last September, he was accompanied by a slightly larger group than usual.

It was the Saint-Louis Symphony Orchestra.

Ishibashi appeared at Powell Hall to perform “Improvisations on EO 9066”, a multimedia piece whose title comes from the executive order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt which forced the internment of more than 110,000 American citizens of Japanese descent during the Second World War. Ishibashi performed other selections from his catalog as well.

It was the first time he played a full show with a symphony orchestra.

“It was a special moment for me,” Ishibashi says. “I had been trying to get into playing with symphonies for a very long time. And I was able to make my debut with one of the best symphonies in America. It was a bit shocking and exhilarating. It was amazing.”

Last month, Ishibashi presented the world premiere of his feature-length documentary, “Omiyari: A Song Film by Kishi Bashi,” at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas. It is a companion to his 2019 album, also titled “Omiyari”, the making of which is chronicled in the film, along with archival photographs, footage made in the internment camps, and music incorporated into his performance here.

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“EO 9066 was the impetus for the documentary,” says Ishibashi. Co-director Justin Taylor-Smith filmed him walking through the remnants of the camps, improvising and writing music as he contemplated issues of racism, incarceration and assimilation – all of which are, of course, always painfully relevant today.

Now that the documentary has premiered, Ishibashi has had it accepted at a few other festivals and hopes to place it elsewhere as well. Eventually, he hopes to sell it or secure a distribution deal that will allow it to be seen online or through other means.

What brings Ishibashi back to St. Louis so quickly, however — this time to Delmar Hall, with his own band — is something else entirely.

It’s the 10th anniversary of Kishi Bashi’s debut album, “151a”. To celebrate this fact, he re-released it in a special edition which includes the songs as they were originally released, along with their demo versions. Ishibashi cleverly labeled the re-release the “demo-arigato version”.

Kishi Bashi

Photo by Max Ritter

At the Delmar Hall show, he will perform “151a” in its entirety, along with other tracks.

As for the title of the album, Ishibashi says: “My mother invented it. It’s really awesome. It’s Japanese: “ichi-go ichi-e”, which means “once, an encounter”. It’s a phrase that talks about finding beauty in an imperfect encounter. This means that every interaction you have with a person – stranger, friend or otherwise – is unique to that particular moment and you should cherish that interaction.

Ishibashi found the phrase helpful in realizing that an album doesn’t have to be a masterpiece to be valuable. “It’s just a snapshot of your moment,” he says, adding that, given his tendency towards perfectionism, this bit of wisdom relieved some of the pressure he had put on himself.

However, “151a” is a rather special album. His songs — including “Manchester,” “Bright Whites,” “Atticus, in the Desert,” and “I Am the Antichrist to You” — are lush, trippy, textured, and cinematic. From time to time, his long voice delivers lyrics in Japanese, making his music even more eclectic.

“Being Japanese American, I think I was trying to feel more comfortable with my identity,” Ishibashi says of this artistic choice. “But the other thing was, I just wanted to stand out. In the ocean of indie-rock musicians, I had to figure out, ‘How was I unique?’ »

The album was released on the fledgling label Joyful Noise, for which Ishibashi still records. The reputations of the artist and the label have grown over time. Kishi Bashi’s other albums include “Lighght”, “Sonderlust” and, of course, “Omiyari”.

Before striking out on his own, Ishibashi studied film music at Berklee College of Music. He founded the electronic rock band Jupiter One and later toured as a side musician with Montreal and Regina Spektor.

Ahead of the “151a” re-release, Ishibashi released 2021’s “Emigrant EP,” a six-song collection he calls his “COVID release.” Compared to his earlier work, it has more of a bucolic, American feel, largely inspired by the desolate, unspoilt landscape of Montana, where he weathered the pandemic, living in an RV.

He’ll probably include some of those songs in the Delmar Hall show as well.

Since his SLSO debut, Ishibashi has performed with other orchestras, including the Virginia Symphony and the Oregon Symphony. And there are more to come.

“I’ve been talking to these orchestras for years,” he says. “And none of them would give me a chance because they didn’t know what the show would be like. But now I’ve proven that I can do it. St. Louis gave me that chance.

What Kishi Bashi, big big trees • When 8 p.m. April 7 • Or Delmar Building, 6133 Delmar Boulevard • How much $20 to $25 • More information ticketmaster.com

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Saturday, April 2, 2022


Friday, April 1, 2022


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