If you're not already hip to the name Kishi Bashi, it's only a matter of time before you get there. The solo project from indie violinist and master sonic looper Kaoru Ishibashi (who goes by K) has been sending critics into raptures since even before the release of the debut Kishi Bashi album 151A this April. NPR's Stephen Thompson called the Virginia native's “one-man orchestra” of violin, beatboxing and English and Japanese vocals one of a few standouts from South By Southwest. The Washington Post reported at least one woman openly weeping at a Kishi Bashi concert, and Andrew Bird comparisons are already piling on like so many violin loops.
Which is why we’re excited to premiere the first official music video for 151A, for the track “I Am The Antichrist To You.” The stop-motion video has been a long time coming -- Ishibashi originally intended to set it to a track by his old band Jupiter One, but when the band began to dissolve he decided to hold off. “If we released it, nothing would happen. No one would see it. So this thing sat dormant, and I felt guilty for, like, a year,” Ishibashi told the Huffington Post in a phone interview, from his home in Norfolk, Va.
During that time, Ishibashi started touring with the experimental pop-rock band, of Montreal. His growing friendship with lead singer Kevin Barnes, with whom he collaborated on album production and “weird sound effects,” gave the classically-trained violinist insight into how to go solo intelligently. “Violin was always my money maker, and [Barnes] helped me realize that was where my strength lay. He pushed me to dig deep. I was able to come up with a lot of sounds a guitar player wouldn’t be able to.”
In the video, a puppy wakes up to find himself on an island full of abandoned creatures and objects, a world removed from its former self, according to Ishibashi. “What destroyed it is non-creative, pre-civilized thinking -- represented by numbers and letters, very basic stuff. The puppy can remember a fantastic world, but the one he's in now is devoid of life and color."
To render the story, Ishibashi called on his friend Anthony Scott, a former Pixar employee who’s worked on seemingly every animated thing, from “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” to Google's "Gumby" tribute, to “Coraline,” on which he was lead animator. “I’m used to working on these movies where everything’s very specific," Scott told the Huffington Post. "But this was something I shot at home with creative freedom."
“My favorite scene is one of the very first shots, when the numbers are crashing out of the sky into the ocean. Shots like that are a lot of fun because you’ve got a moving camera that’s actually physically animating everything."
The video, which Scott worked on from start to finish in his Portland home, is in some ways as technically dense as a studio project. Scott and Ishibashi shot 24 frames of still pictures for every second, the standard rate for movies, and Scott created everything he used by hand. The wooden rig he built for the opening scene ended up powering every one, and is now jokingly referred to by Scott and Ishibashi as a fictional trademarked tool called the "Lumber Flex."
Much like a Kishi Bashi melody, the story unfolds with compounding urgency. Toward the end, the distraught puppy drowns in an ocean of his own tears, swallowed by neat blue waves. It’s a narrative that happened to presage the death of one of Ishibashi’s closest friends, and he's dedicated the video to him. “He drowned while we were on tour. It was terrible," Ishibashi said. "I had shown him the video and he was a huge fan of it. I’m not superstitious, but I think emotionally I made a connection after the fact.”
The creation of the ocean ultimately restarts the former world, recursive in the way of all things Ishibashi, from his musical loops to his chosen stage name.
“There is death, but the cycle repeats itself," Ishibashi told us. "The world comes back like a phoenix.”
WATCH Kishi Bashi's "I Am The Antichrist To You" below:
Scott's work will next be seen in "ParaNorman," Laika studio's "Coraline" followup due out Aug. 17. For more on his process, you can check out the video's Tumblr, People In The Mountain, Scott's personal website, or his community website, stopmotionanimation.com.
To buy the Kishi Bashi album "151A," head to Amazon.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story mistook Anthony Scott's joking reference to a wooden rig as trademarked. It has been changed to reflect the correction.