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Eiko Ishibashi

Eiko Ishibashi is a Japanese improvisor, producer, and singer-songwriter. As her albums demonstrate, she is equally comfortable composing and performing everything from quirky pop, modern classical music, and prog to the extremes of improvisational jazz and noise. She has performed and toured with Jim ORourke, Keiji Haino, Akira Sakata, Charlemagne Palestine, Oren Ambarchi, and Glenn Kotche, to name a few. Her 2014 offering, Car and Freezer, offered evidence of the seam where her quirky brand of pop met complex jazz composition, while Kouen Kyoudai, her 2016 album-length collaboration with Masami Akita (Merzbow) offered an exercise in industrial improvisation.

Ishibashi's main instrument is piano, though she is adept at drums, flute, and vibraphone. Her first "solo" recording was Slip Beneath the Distant Tree in 2007, a double-length duo offering with Ruins bassist Tatsuya Yoshida. She followed it a year later with the innovative Drifting Devil. The album captured the critical imagination of Japanese journalists -- many of whom selected it as one of the year's best recordings -- as well as the admiration of fellow musicians, and her reputation grew.

In 2010 she met O'Rourke when they were both invited to play on Phew's Five Finger Discount. He asked her to perform on his All Kinds of People: Love Burt Bacharach tribute set and they joined one another's bands. He produced Ishibashi's 2011 album Carapace, and recorded and mixed her solo piano follow-up, I'm Armed. In 2013, she played on Gaspar Claus' Jo Ha Kyū alongside Ryuichi Sakamoto, Haino, and Kazutoki Umezu. She also signed to Drag City, which released Imitation of Life and followed it with Car and Freezer in 2014. Ishibashi and O'Rourke were also members of Kafka's Ibiki, who cut three albums between 2013 and 2014. She played on O'Rourke's Simple Songs in 2015 and kept up a rigorous touring regimen that included playing her own shows and with O'Rourke and their band. She also found time to form RNA with Fumio Kosakai (Incapacitants) and Kimihide Kusafuka (K2), and cut the double-cassette release No New Tokyo.

In early 2016, Ishibashi released another duo recording, this one in collaboration with Masami Akita (aka Merzbow); entitled Kouen Kyoudaireleased on Editions Mego. That same year she also worked with experimental sound artist and composer John Duncan on his full-length Bitter Earth, and privately released the digital-only piano trio full-length Six Feet Under with bassist Toshiaki Sudoh and drummer Tatsuhisa Yamamoto. After time off and touring with O'Rourke, Ishibashi returned to the studio in 2018 and released the experimental Ichida in collaboration with composer and multi-instrumentalist Darin Gray on Black Truffle, and her own mutant pop collection, The Dream My Bones Dream on Drag City.

Featured releases

"First release from the duo of two important yet often underappreciated musicians, Eiko Ishibashi and Darin Gray. Ishibashi is a singer-songwriter, keyboardist, drummer, and multi-instrumentalist, known in Japan both for her own elaborately conceptual solo albums and for her frequent collaborations with figures such as Jim O’Rourke, Merzbow, and Phew. Darin Gray is a bassist and multi-instrumentalist known for a multitude of collaborations (with O’Rourke and Loren Connors, among many others), for On Fillmore, his cinematic post-exotica project with Glenn Kotche, and as one half of Chikamorachi with Chris Corsano, one of the finest free-jazz rhythm sections around. Presenting the entirely of a live set performed at Tokyo’s Super Deluxe in March 2013, the set begins as a duet for Ishibashi’s flute and Gray’s upright bass. Calmly melodic yet harmonically inventive, with shades of ‘spiritual jazz’, the pair’s acoustic ruminations are gradually joined by Ishibashi’s lush electronics, which randomly flicker between chords in a manner recalling the classic work of David Behrman. As the electronics build into a gloomy fog of slowly cycling loops, Gray lays his bass aside and turns to making strangely mournful interjections on a mouthpiece. Eventually Ishibashi moves to the piano, enveloping the audience in rippling pools of sustained, octave-doubled melody, provided by Gray’s bass with a fluid and dynamic foundation. For much of the second side, both Ishibashi and Gray turn to electronics, ultimately arriving in a bizarre space of melancholic arpeggios and random sputter and sizzle, oddly reminiscent of 70s outsider prog acts like Wapassou. An uneasy coda of rich piano chords ends the set. Captured in warm room ambience and beautifully mixed by Jim O’Rourke, Ichida is a rare combination of improvisational acumen and emotional directness, both adventurous and immediately accessible."

Eiko Ishibashi & Darin Grey – Ichida

Honoured to present this new work by Japanese improvisor, producer, and singer-songwriter, Eiko Ishibashi. This mysterious "live session" sees her paring back her song-craft in favour of a multifaceted suite of synthetic sound and rhythm, pushing and pulling her work in radical new directions. The work opens with seething, dense layers of synthesis, driven skyward by the powerful dual percussion work of Tatsuhisa Yamamoto and Joe Talia. Elsewhere she embraces scattering electronics, allowing programmed and indeterminate elements to trip over themselves. As the session progresses, iridescent organ laments and spiraling synth arpeggios emerge, collapse and dissolve, birthing moments of lava-hot extra-terrestrial funk. This is Eiko going truly "out": loosening, expanding, falling off the grid and into deep unknown terrain. We're here for it. "Actually, I'm still afraid to play music live. But the feeling of jumping off a cliff, the feeling of being able to go far from my consciousness, the feeling of resetting to go to creation again, the feeling that my world is inevitably opened by customers and people I meet at live performances... these feelings, I wouldn't get anywhere else.  I am deeply grateful that I was able to have such experiences with the help of many live music venues and their staff in Japan and overseas. I hope to see you again in good spirits.I will do my best until then.The live performance I did at cafe oto was also an unforgettable one.I want to come again. Thank you for the opportunity. "   - Eiko Ishibashi <Japanese Text > 沢山の国内外のライブハウス、スタッフの方々に助けられ、育てられて今の自分があります。 崖から飛び降りるような感覚、自分の意識から遠いところに行けるような感覚、そこからまた創作に向かうためのリセット感、お客さんやライブで出会う方々によって自分の世界が否応なく開かれる感覚は他では得られないものです。 元気な姿でまたお会いできたら嬉しいです。 それまで精進致します。 cafe otoのような素晴らしい場所がこの状況を乗り越えて存続していきますように。 このような機会をくださってありがとうございました。 石橋英子 -- EIko Ishibashi: Synth, Piano, Voice, Flute, Vibraphone, Sound CollageTatsuhisa Yamamoto: DrumsJoe Talia: DrumsMastered by Jim O'Rourke

Eiko Ishibashi – Live at Incubus

Past events