Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Kishi Bashi - Sonderlust (2016)

Considering how tied to the concept of love the wide majority of violinist/composer/loop maestro Kishi Bashi's songs are, it's hardly a surprise that he would find himself creatively blocked when his own love life was suffering a sort of break down. From the tenderly emotive "Manchester" from his debut Room For Dream EP and subsequent reappearance on full length 151a, to the ecstatic giddiness of Lighght's "Philosophilize With It! Chemicalize With It!", love in all its permutations lyrically fueled Ishibashi and grounded his vibrantly colored blend of psych rock and orchestral pop. And after dealing with his writer's block, Kishi Bashi was able to channel that strife into his third full length studio album Sonderlust that essentially manages to pick things up right where he left them.

One of most exciting things about Kishi Bashi's albums - Sonderlust in particular is it shows a growth that's both in line with previous releases while aspiring to be more than just more of the same. Lighght pushed Kishi Bashi's sound firmly into that of his influences in prog rock and jazz fusion and Sonderlust gives the occasional nod to those influences without rooting itself too much in the sounds of Lighght ("Ode To My Next Life", "Who'd You Kill").

While songs like "Manchester" and "Bittersweet Genesis For Him AND Her" introduced darkness into Kishi Bashi's narratives to show the enduring appeal of true love, Sonderlust treats that darkness less as means of narrative shading and more as rooting his tales of love in reality. Real feelings of doubt, insecurity, and sadness. Sonderlust begins with "m'lover", a dizzying but sweet appeal for reconciliation that along with "Say Yeah" obscures their inherent melancholy with upbeat and engaging pop dressings. Even more overt songs like "Can't Let Go, Juno" and never quite forget to be pop songs first and foremost. It's not until penultimate track "Flame On Flame (a Slow Dirge)" that Sonderlust shows any signs of slowing down or toning down its pop mechanics. In this way Kishi Bashi creates an album that's a sort of cousin to friend Sondre Lerche's own breakup record Please: both seemingly operating under the rule that regardless of the intensity of emotion, how negative the feeling that wallowing heartbreak ballads simply will not do.

Sonderlust is essentially an album about putting in the work to sustain the honeymoon of Lighght and the fantastical first love of 151a. Through moving through the shade, its glitchy "It All Began With A Burst" recalling finale in "Honeybody" feels earned. It's the sun appearing in newly blue skies after storm clouds and the rain and Kishi Bashi's playful enthusiasm is infectious and cathartic. With "Honeybody", Kishi Bashi's creative woes and romantic strife appear to be solved for the time being and love wins out, surging to the forefront past the churning bile of the album's negative emotional displays. On record Kishi Bashi employs drums instead of the beatboxing he's done in his live show since ditching him cumbersome drum machine after his first tour and while he doesn't exactly enact that here, his cadence on "Honeybody" is perhaps the closest Kishi Bashi has gotten to the kind of music a beatboxing would feel at place in.

Sonderlust finds Kishi Bashi at his most electronic while still the orchestral pop flair that's become a core part of Kishi Bashi's sound. By focusing on the personal, Kishi Bashi has created a dynamic record that pushes his sound forward by circumventing the easy and predictable. Hardly surprising considering his past output but thrilling nonetheless.

Kishi Bashi's third full length album Sonderlust is out now on Joyful Noise Recordings.

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