Bitchin Bajas: Bajascillators Album Review
Chicago’s Bitchin Bajas make languorous, slowly developing music, relying on endless repetition rather than big changes to move forward. But compared to previous albums, like 2014’s 76-minute self-titled album and 2017’s 80-minute album Fresh Bajas—Bajascillators is surprisingly compact. On each of the four tracks, Cooper Crain, Rob Frye and Dan Quinlivan start with minimal loops, add concentric layers and move towards multiphonic bliss. They are always stretching and floating, using around twenty instruments, including keyboards, reeds and woodwinds. But everything here is concentrated and relatively effective, which allows a sharp distillation of the strengths of the group. If you could squeeze 47 minutes of music into a 7″, Bajascillators would fit this format well.
Time has always been a malleable concept for Bitchin Bajas. Their open approach allows sounds to grow but never stagnate, so the trio can make long songs seem to fly fast and short ones seem expansive. On Bajascillators, each track is roughly the same length – the shortest is nearly 10 minutes, the longest 14 – but each facilitates a noticeably different sense of time. The “Amorpha” opener hits the ground with a mesh of marimba-style loops – aided by Laurie Spiegel’s Music Mouse software – and sprints towards the finish line. Then comes the airy and icy “Geomancy”, whose scattered tones and deliberately rhythmic chords evoke a film slowed down to the point where you can see the gap between each frame.
When it comes to playing with perception, the most dazzling piece on Bajascillators is “World B. Free”. Named after a legendary basketball player who seemed to defy the laws of physics himself, the piece begins distantly and subtly, with a high-pitched drone crawling slowly from the horizon, as if the track were an extension of “Geomancy.” . A few minutes later, a rotating synth slips under a clarinet melody and the loops begin to multiply. Soon, countless sounds intersect and spawn new patterns, and “World B. Free” clicks into a breakneck pace. Then it fades again, fading into echoing chimes and dying trails, like the last evidence of a rocket being fired into space.
Lots of those kinds of sparks and embers on Bajascillators hear better through headphones. Playing in the background, the album might seem simply soothing, but get closer and you’ll notice a lot more patterns and curves than the surface suggests. This effect is clearest on “Quakenbrück” closer, the most eye-catching cut here. Driven by guest Rex McMurry’s drums, it quickly turns into motorized space rock, sounding like classic Bajas as well as the band McMurry shares with Crain and Frye, Cave. If that means it’s not a big change of pace from the trio’s previous work, that’s fine. Bitchin Bajas’ music is about carrying on, and Bajasicllators does that as well as anything in their discography.
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