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Kishi Bashi finds himself on creative solo adventure

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From the unconventional and creative sounds on his debut solo album, last year's "151a," few might guess that Kishi Bashi emerged from the realm of commercial jingles.

"It was a long time ago, and it was very unsatisfying," says Kaoru Ishibashi, aka Kishi Bashi, 37, of his ad-agency past. "At an agency, the word would go out that someone was looking for a spot, so everybody would frantically demo their own music. Everybody had their specialized thing. I was the indie-rock guy. The deadlines are usually 48 hours. You can't come up with great music in 48 hours, and they don't want great. I did a United Airlines commercial. Maybe a Cialis commercial."

KISHI BASHI
with Plume Giant
♦ 8 p.m. Thursday
♦ Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln
♦ Sold out
♦ (773) 525-2508; lincolnhallchicago.com

Ishibashi fled the suits and formed Jupiter One, a Brooklyn-based band with very basic indie-pop and New Wave influences. Jupiter One released three albums.

But Ishibashi began picking up other gigs -- gigs with more inventive, singular artists. He opened for Sondre Lerche. He toured with Regina Spektor. He became something of a satellite member of art-rock outfit Of Montreal.

It was Spektor, Ishibashi says, who encouraged him to not only go out on his own but to be himself.

The result of that brave step is "151a," a daring album filled with consistently creative choices. Chanting choruses, sweeping synths, Asian influences and Ishibashi's secret weapon -- his violin -- mix and braid and swirl together in inventive combinations and breathtaking moments. "Bright Whites" is the album's purest pop moment, and its use in a Windows 8 commercial brought Ishibashi full circle.

Now Ishibashi takes his solo act on the road. He's played gigs alone -- using loops to layer vocals and violin and add depth to the sound, like Andrew Bird, who Ishibashi says is a big influence -- but on this trek he's supported by two other players.

"At one point in my live set, I realized that my violin was what made me stick out in the crowd and I started to explore that," he says. "How to interpret the songs that way -- it pushed me to write in a different way. I used to basically show off: 'Look! I can play all these different instruments!' But who cares? People just want to hear music that moves them, so I abandoned everything but the violin and the beatboxing. I don't care if people say it's weird. There's art, and there's simple pop songs. I've found a happy balance."


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Interesting how his background is in advertising - would be cool to find out more about how where he's come from has influenced who he is and how he makes his music today!

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Thomas Conner

Thomas Conner covers pop music for the Chicago Sun-Times. Contact him via e-mail.

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