Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Patrick Stolley
There was a quote by 16-year-old rapper Haleek Maul that I read in the newest issue of Fader magazine this morning, that feels like a thought that Kishi Bashi would nod to, silently and with eyes reverently closed. Maul, a native of Barbados, was commenting on the place where he grew up, saying, "You think it's exciting and exuberant because of all the children and the things around it. But if you've ever been to the beach at night, you realize how rough the seas are. When it hits the cliffs and the shoreline, it just seems so angry and powerful." The power of an ocean is a primetime and breakfast topic these days, with the catastrophic ugliness of Hurricane Sandy that brought a fraction of civilization that considered itself immune to the venomous power and roar of Mother Nature to its knees. You would never have to visit Barbados or anywhere of the sort to imagine the violent slap of ocean water against rock, the way that Maul describes. You can do this on your own and it might be a fraction of what it actually is, but you know enough to be awed by it. You know enough to fear it.
Kishi Bashi, the multi-instrumentalist who has performed in the touring bands of of Montreal, Regina Spektor and Sondre Lerche, respects the elements, as they are. He builds these elements right into his songs that are journeys and unplanned self-discoveries. He appreciates the erosion of water on rocks, of the incessant smacking of water on hard surfaces, wearing them down to pebbles and sand, doing as they want until there is no more opposition. He respects the beating of the air - if it's a wind, if it's a word stomping out of a mouth and into a night sky, if it's arms and their flailing. He figures out ways that his stories and his playing can dance with these beatings. He constructs these fantastical marriages of beauty with the raw power of these pieces that could come together to create a disaster.
Here, backed by The Last Bison, Kishi Bashi - with a song selection that picks from his latest album "151A' - sounds like he's thrown these tales of love out onto a rowboat and pushed them from a sinking ship, hoping that they'll survive, that they'll make land. The love sought and the love that's trying to get rescued is of the kind that could jump off the cliff or into the dark, shark-infested waters at any time. There's a desire for it to be more like the movies, but there's a feeling that it's doomed for self-destruction. There's a desire to save it from itself, from its own elements that just throw it jarringly against the rocks.