Kishi Bashi: 151a
Choosing an opening for this book was a task that has taken all my energy in the afterlife. The other tigers mock me, call me cruel names. I am fortunate that none of the them knew me in life, or they would call me a traitor and hang me from a tree. Tiger afterlife is a cruel holding place, and I am glad that I can wander through my memories, past and future, through this outlet. Even discovering that I could understand human speech after devouring that language professor¹ was less comforting than this book is to me now. I languish in doldrums, with nothing but flawless and sumptuous jungles shining with God’s good light. All the tigers want to do is hunt the lead-footed deer and drink from the water of ecstasy while reveling in their kills. Maybe sometimes they’ll break up this careless and dull routine with some carnal cavorting, but even that grows wearisome to watch, particularly for an enlightened tiger.
When I put in a request for albums at the afterlife head office, they were baffled, first because even most afterlife tigers can’t speak. It doesn’t quite work that way normally. But since I could talk, they granted my request and gave me a small, well-furnished townhouse. Inside there is the best sound system on the planet as well as a sturdy but minimalist wooden desk and thousands of animal skin pages to fill with writings. The first album I pulled off the pile attracted my eye because it had a tiger on the front.
With no further adieu, and with tigers attempting to scent mark my brick siding, I give you Kishi Bashi’s 151a.
Violins are funny instruments. Tigers cannot play them, so there was no point in me trying to learn² how when I was on Earth. Many humans use them to make beautiful music, however, or at least to try. Kishi Bashi is one of those people. Using some of the same digital looping technology as Owen Pallett³, he nonetheless comes forward as a developing new voice in the baroque pop⁴ style. Despite the obviousness of the studio prowess necessary to pull off an effort like this, it manages to sound relatively organic. If this is so, however, if we are to think of the album as organic, then it is a peculiar organism indeed. Given his background in the flamboyant and poorly-named Athens, GA band Of Montreal, his surreal lyrical style and liberal use of pop ornamentation are no surprise.
Unlike the more addled and nihilistic Of Montreal, however, the songs here are infused with a sonic hope, even as lyrics can descend into the despondent. Most of the time the meanings of his songs are gleaned more through impressionistic storytelling than easily identifiable words. His beautiful voice is enough to carry his leaping melodies, though some of the songs feel burdened by some of the production pomp. Instruments come through clearly but the entire atmosphere is dreamlike. Lyrics are often difficult to understand, especially when our leading man employs his falsetto, but lyrics sheets are mostly optional if you’re like me. The dominant mode for the album is instrumental excess. Guitars, drums, the violin (sometimes played in fiddle style) and even harpsichords show up. Perhaps the best track is “I Am the Antichrist to You” which has a dark and profoundly melancholic streak that balances out the more obviously joyous tracks.
The album is at its most beautiful in songs like “Antichrist:” weird and quiet, with a romantic intimacy rather than a communal clapping party. The latter are fun, too, but not nearly as interesting. One major complaint: no songs about tigers? Despite the clearly tiger-focused album art? Is he saying that he is a tiger? That the music inside resembles a tiger? Perhaps that is unknowable. And that song with the country fiddles? It’s fun, but I’m glad it’s the shortest track on the album. The whole record is rather short and light, but these are mainly virtues. It might be worrying that I don’t crave more after listening to it, but that might be too subjective than even a blog review should be.
Let’s mark this one as the solo debut of a promising new talent who will hopefully continue including my noble species in his album art.
- This is linguist and professional tiger hunter Harleen Kaur-Douglas-Jones, a twice-divorced academic who hunted to get her blood flowing. Alexius devoured her after she harnessed him with a tracking collar so she could shoot him in the face later on.
- Tigers cannot play the violin because their claws would snap the strings. It’s tragic but true.
- A Canadian violinist whose fans accuse our subject here of ripping him off. As a tiger with a lot of ripping experience, let me tell you that these accusations are mainly unfounded.