Release Date: Jul 16, 2013
Record label: Drag City
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Neo-Psychedelia, Space Rock
Chicago dream/drone unit Bitchin' Bajas get in the zone and stay in the zone with Bitchitronics, their most high-definition album in a prolific stream of releases. Originally an offshoot of the mostly instrumental and highly Krautrock-influenced group Cave, Bitchin' Bajas sound completely removed from the side-project stigma on these four lengthy tracks, presenting languid, textural explorations with too much focus and intensity to appear incidental or secondary. While working in the same lucid instrumental patchwork of sounds as contemporaries like Mountains, Emeralds, and Tape, opening track "Transcendence" immediately calls to mind the No Pussyfooting-era collaborations of Robert Fripp and Brian Eno.
It's hard not to default to a string of comparisons when reviewing an album by the oddly named Bitchin Bajas, to pull one's critical chutes on Kraftwerk, Can, Klaus Schulze and the ambient works of Brian Eno, then coast to an expected conclusion. This remains true with the fourth full-length from the Chicago, IL-based duo of Cooper Crain (Cave) and Dan Quinlivan (Mahjongg). Bitchitronics rides a minimalist kosmische wave from start to finish.
Bitchin BajasBitchitronics[Drag City; 2013]By Joshua Pickard; August 7, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGIt’s difficult to discuss the latest record from Chicago experimental synth trio Bitchin Bajas without at least mentioning the inevitable influence of Brian Eno—and to a somewhat lesser degree, Robert Fripp. Eno has given us some of the most interesting and involved synthetic pop of the last four decades, while Fripp’s inimitable guitar work in bands like King Crimson and Fripp & Eno (imagine that) has set an unusually high mark for prog and art rock devotees. And although the decaying synths and unraveling rhythms on Bitchin Bajas’ newest offering, Bitchitronics, can feel at times more readily connected with modern day cassette drone aesthetics than '70s synth-pop, the roots of the album and the band itself curl all the way back to Eno’s minimalist electronic experiments and, oddly enough, his exploration/breakdown of Muzak as a viable art form.
You might not think a group called Bitchin Bajas would be making beatific drone music; the name suggests a drug-rug-wearing, Tuesdays-only Tex-Mex bar band. But Bitchin Bajas, which began as the project of Chicago's Cooper Crain, has grown into a trio that specializes in the kind of calmly interstellar music that feels unconnected to time, space, or trends. Bitchitronics, their fourth proper album, is a serene cloud of hovering tones and near-zero motion, an album of sounds that feel so good that they feel like events in themselves.
Gods of Music nailed it in a write-up of “The Dream Syndicate”: The drone, a slowly evolving sound (or sounds), usually somewhat like a modal fractal set, stands at the opposing end of an absolute dichotomy with silence, while simultaneously dependent on it for its inherent meaning and, therefore, like minimalism, its observable quality. What’s fascinating about music constructed from acoustic or electronic drones is how, despite its susceptibility to scrutiny (which stems from the predominant use of simple base material), it forces the listener to focus on what remains in the composition. For without melody, complex rhythms, or common song-form structures, the details inherent to tone, color, and harmony come to the fore.
The work of ambient composers in the wake of Brian Eno’s early ‘70s middle finger to Muzak can make it easy to forget that he initially intended the form as background music to enhance the sensations of existing spaces. As several generations of producers have teased out the possibilities of the concept, the most celebrated purveyors of the genre are those who abandon that central conceit. The Tim Heckers of the world apply the conventions and dynamics of classical composition (or at the very least post-rock), but as well as they do it, there remains an undercurrent of those who celebrate stillness rather than movement, placidity rather than agitation.
Sometime this year the combination of Drag City and Thrill Jockey became the one-two combination of zoned psychedelic epic motorik rock - and feel free to rearrange those words as needed. Not that they were the only ones doing that, nor was it because all the bands on those labels were just doing that, but there just seemed to be one release after another where the spirit of the 60s/70s pioneers, refracted through the great 1990s era of Terrastock festivals and internet community forming, proceeded to reincarnate in a new way. That may seem a sweeping prelude to talk about just one of those albums, but Bitchin' Bajas, side project of CAVE'S Cooper Crain turned into a full-fledged trio on Bitchitronics, fit clearly into a tradition as much as they are aiming to create their own space.