Kishi Bashi burst into my ears mid last year and hasn’t left since. I saw him live in London last year and when I heard that he was releasing a live album – I was coloured excited. Arranging nine tracks in a string quartet sees some of the unique looping production fall by the wayside for a more elegant arrangement. It’s slightly different to his usual live shows but they are all welcome arrangements.
“Manchester” is a big case in point. Being able to have a palette of strings to play with opens up the cute track to allow it to pick and play around Kishi Bashi’s beautiful vocals. It also allows the flexibility to join together for choruses and finales for a huge push. “Bittersweet Genesis For Him and Her”is a song that comes on leaps and bounds with this and feels improved in some ways to the original.
Other tracks take on a new guise and “Atticus In The Desert” is one of those with its bombastic changes of tempo, pace and mood. The addition of a ukulele and some percussive slaps really get things going and some great backing vocals too. It feels lush and homemade at the same time and that’s the beauty of the album as a whole. “Carry On Phenomenon” adds in some keyboards for what is still one of the best indie pop tracks this decade. It has the same amount of energy live. On the opposite end “I Am the Antichrist To You” is so gently and delicately placed together it really feels like an emotional work of art.
A cover is next on the album – “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” from Talking Heads. It’s a bouncy waltzing four chord symphony and he makes it truly his own version with an impassioned performance. “The Ballad of Mr Steak” follows which is the indie disco number. The crowd clap along and its a riot – just as the album version is. “Conversations at the End of the World” is equally as stunning but in its stripped down nature. However still a masterpiece – nothing compares for the frankly flawless “In Fantasia”. It was one of, if not the favourite song for me to discover last year and the live performance graciously builds from the gentle pitter patters of the strings into a symphony and then over its eight minutes glides away into a mournful singular note.
Each track is similar to its original but without technical wizardry, each track feels slightly more direct. For some tracks that sheds new light, for others it allows you to appreciate melodies more. As a result “String Quartet Live” is a very worthy addition to your Kishi Bashi collection – although it may not be the best place to start.