Kaoru Ishibashi, known by his stage name of Kishi Bashi, has made a wonderful life for himself with the use of his voice and his violin. Born in Seattle, Washington and raised in Norfolk, Virginia, as his parents were instructors at Old Dominion University. After graduating high school, Ishibashi attended Berklee College of Music to study film scoring. Bashi released his first studio album, “151a” in 2012, which primarily featured string instruments to create lush soundscapes. His second full length “Lighght”, which charted at number fifty-two on the Billboard 200, in was dropped in 2014.
Kishi Bashi has just released his third studio creation, “Sonderlust”, under the Joyful Noise label. This album, unlike his other work, is an eclectic blend of chamber pop and electronic music.“Sonderlust” features more use of synths and drum machines than the violinist’s earlier music, giving the record a poppier and more approachable feel. Ishibashi’s music feels like each song is a personal dance party. Some moments are bouncy and sweet, but not to the point of becoming annoyingly bubblegum pop. Kishi Bashi’s compositional skills are fully displayed on “Sonderlust”. The album sounds like a fantasy video game soundtrack, but in all the best way possible. Ishibashi’s ten track romp feels as though it takes you on an emotional quest through an imaginative land you’ve never knew you belonged to.
“M’lover”, the lead track on the album is a romantic jaunt that ask “would you be my lover?” over twinkly plucking of a guitar and layered violin loops. It feels like it should be in the end credits of a romantic comedy. “Say Yeah” combines very lush tones in with some 8-bit portions. Here Kishi Bashi sings about being in the last throws of a once promising relationship and trying to make it work. In “Hey Big Star”, Ishibashi gives us a saccharine, but wistful tune about missed chances. He sings “Hey Big Star, you shine too bright, I’m in love with you, I’m your comet tonight, Swept me away in your blinding sun, We’ll melt someday into each other”. The idea comes across that Kishi Bashi or persona he’s assuming hasn’t seen his love in some time but saw them in a dream, which was bright and colorful and clear but ultimately unreal. “Honeybody”, the final track on the album is a loving anthem. It has a refreshing vibe to it and has summerish feel. I think it gives a happy ending and conclusion to the relationship aspect of the album. The track, much like “Sonderlust” as a whole, presents an invigorating take on love, we are too complicated creatures to live out the fairy tale romances that many of us lust after. Love is maddeningly difficult, Humans are complex and life gets in the way. True love isn’t straightforward, but when it can exist, it is wonderful.
The explanation that Kishi Bashi gave for the name “Sonderlust” was that he drew it from the word “sonder”, a word coined by John Koenig. The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is a blog that is operated by Koenig, and displays a compilation of fictitious words. According to Koenig, sonder is a noun that refers to “the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness…”. Essentially it’s a response to self-centrism. It’s the recognition that even the strangers around have lives are just as complex and layered as our own. “Sonderlust” seeks to explore that feeling of minuteness in a positive light. It looks at coming to terms with feelings of insignificance, which admittedly can be daunting. It can give one the agency to truly chase what one wants, because you know most times that repercussions are limited in time and scope.
Kishi Bashi is also embarking on a tour for the release of “Sonderlust”. He will be playing two North Carolina dates, September 28 at the Visulite in Charlotte, and September 30 at the Cat’s Cradle in Charlotte. Tickets for both events can be purchased either over the phone, or online at the respective venues websites.