A lush array of looping and vocal/violin gymnastics... Kishi Bashi's debut full-length, 151a, is a bright and soaring avant-pop record written primarily on violin - Kishi Bashi's main instrument which has brought him to record and tour with the likes of Regina Spector, Sondre Lerche, Alexi Murdoch, of Montreal and more.
Kishi Bashi collaborated with of Montreal's Kevin Barnes on that band's new album, Paralytic Stalks. This last endeavor he credits with some of his most recent musical growth, acknowledging that Barnes pushed him to new heights of creativity, forcing him to explore a broader use of his primary instrument: the violin. This experimentation affected his loop-based live show and led to him write more of the new record with violin rather than piano or guitar, loosening him from the grip of habit and expanding his palette. Kishi Bashi uses Japanese singing as another of many layers, doing so without any trace of gimmickry, and achieving what, to Western ears, must sound like an expression of the ineffable.
From the deconstructed doo-wop of "Wonder Woman, Wonder Me," a 21st century transmission of Smile-era Brian Wilson to the menacing marriage of Eastern hues and Western operatics in "Beat the Bright out of Me," this album is a mediation between opposing drives, offering possible reconciliation but never promising it. Kishi Bashi played and produced 151a entirely himself.
Elizabeth & The Catapult
Take a clear and powerful voice, add a memorable melody and set it to unique, sophisticated harmonies, and what emerges is Elizabeth and the Catapult’s singular sound. At a time when so much music is saturated with familiarity, the band’s style, which Northeast Performer describes as “a mixture of organic jazz, rock and pop,”is a welcome departure from a well-beaten bath. Comprised of Elizabeth Ziman (vocals, keys), Danny Molad (drums), and Peter Lalish (guitar), Elizabeth and the Catapult came into existence in 2004.
In the less than two years since their move to New York, Elizabeth and the Catapult has already racked up an impressive list of accomplishments. In May and August of 2006 they were featured on WNYC’s “Soundcheck” as well as PRI’s “Fair Game with Faith Salie”. At the end of the year they were dubbed by NPR as “One of the Best Discoveries of 2006”. The Catapult have had residencies at clubs such as the Living Room and Rockwood Music Hall, and after opening for national headliners like Jessie Harris, Kirk Kirkwood (of The Meat Puppets fame), The Wood Brothers (of Medeski, Martin, and Wood), and Amanda Palmer (of The Dresden Dolls) there was enough buzz about them to support a tour and label interest on the West Coast. All of this success also earned them a place as the Billboard Underground Artist for last October.
Bound by a common love of eclectic influences, Elizabeth & the Catapult draws inspiration from artists such as Tom Waits, David Byrne, Joni Mitchell, and Jon Brion- as well as classical influences such as Debussy, Ravel and Chopin. One explanation for the bands musical diversity is Elizabeth Ziman’s musical background. She was trained as a classical pianist until the age of sixteen. “As a kid, I used to practice all the time…” Elizabeth explains. “But one day I realized that I couldn’t lock myself in a room for eight hours a day…that’s when I started writing and singing.” After that, it quickly became apparent that her vocal abilities rivaled her piano kills. In 2002, Elizabeth successfully auditioned to be a background vocalist for soul-queen Patti Austin and ended up joining her on tour for the next year and a half. Elizabeth’s experience along with Pete and Danny’s folk/rock sensibility piece together to make up the band’s harmonically distinctive pop sound, a sound well reflected in their stylistically diverse new EP.
After a listen to the Elizabeth and the Catapult EP, it is immediately clear that a great deal of thought went into each of the songs’ arrangements. Strings, Horns, Marimba and Synthesizers are all blended together, creating an organic, off-beat style that fans have often referred to as “baroque pop”. The sound of the EP is also shaped by the guerilla-style fashion in which it was recorded. Drummer Danny Molad recorded most of the EP in basements and bathrooms, producing the album, along with Elizabeth, in an incredibly modest home studio. With these limited resources, Elizabeth and the Catapult managed to produce an expertly mixed album. Every note of the EP sounds deliberately placed while there still manages to be an air of effortlessness that penetrates throughout all the songs.
In their recordings as well as live performances, Elizabeth and her band members bring together all their backgrounds and experiences to make music that they themselves enjoy. They acknowledge their amorphous style and readily admit that it probably scares record labels. Even so, Elizabeth asserts that she is “not interested in assigning herself a specific style.” Elizabeth and the Catapult are proud of their ever-changing sound and are committed to keeping their music fresh and creative.
The Sterling Sisters
"...Baltimore's The Sterling Sisters, a group that makes some obvious nods to 16 Horsepower and other Old-Testament invoking Goth-country bands. [With their] fiddle, guitar, banjo, drums, and a bassist endowed with a rafter-shaking operatic voice, the sound is full and commanding... They have a knack for the crescendo, taking plaintive country melodies and building them up into full on orchestrated barn-burners. I will admit that the lead singer's string bow-tie really brings it all full circle for me; he's like a singing cowboy that comes to you while you're trippin' balls." Kevin Wesser, What Weekly 2012