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BITCHIN BAJAS

Bitchin Bajas

Switched On Ra

    A year after the cassette-only release of ‘Switched On Ra’, another format has fallen from whatever kind of rare ether Bitchin Bajas occupy when they’re at home. The LP edition of ‘Switched On Ra’ bears all the same riches (only richer of course) in its grooves, adding a lovely screen-printed rendering of the graphics to its larger-than cassette- cosmos dimensions.

    ‘Switched On Ra’ is the outcome of a typical Bajas exercise: pouring some out for the pioneers that came before (as they’ve done with Bitchitronics and their participation in the annual Chicago performance of ‘In C’ over the years). It’s a nice way to get a flow - they play a little of themselves, then some for the pioneers, then a little more for the band. Before long, they’re playing with the inspirations twined, as they can only come from within.

    For ‘Switched On Ra’, this meant a deep delve into the song-book of one of their soul-predecessors, Sun Ra, whose music is literally written in the Bajas DNA. Digging into this music sounded wild on paper: the drone synth group taking on the Arkestra harmonies and Ra’s loose grooves? The trick was to get that sense of rhythm to translate across the spectrum, from Ra to Bajas, in a way that worked for them both.

    Their rearrangements of the tunes went good - up and down the EQ band, they were finding the round sounds and jagged edges that brought Ra’s music into their own thing. Then at the last minute, there was another twist - why not pay tribute to the Queen herself, and think of the arrangements with a Wendy Carlos vibe? A little side homage? After all, ‘Switched on Bach’ was visionary, bringing analogue synths from the outside all the way into the mainstream in the late 60s - and this take on Ra’s meant to take him to new ears everywhere.

    Sun Ra of course was his own kind of original keyboard visionary, using electric keyboards in the late 40s and 50s to fill a role in jazz that had traditionally been played on acoustic piano only. Once he’d done so, he took his writing in directions inspired by the electricity, places no one had thought to go before then. Doing what he did on the keys was a stand for individuality that became the background radiation of his journey through the cosmos; the search for a place beyond earthly dominance.

    Bitchin Bajas have been content to dominate in a microtonal world, usually without a single chord to be found anywhere. But here, they step up righteously, their vibe triangulated as they bring Ra’s music forward with some Wendy Carlos style, making an unexpected space for all to thrive. There’s a real feeling of joy as these collected signals bounce off the platter and through the speakers into your space.

    To get this unique colloid exactly right, Bitchin Bajas used nineteen different keyboards. They abstained from deploying their arsenal of reed and woodwind instruments: everything had to be on the keys. This meant Yamahas, Rolands, Korgs, Casios, a MicroMoog and of course their trusty Ace Tone organ. They even broke out the Crumar DS-2, to have some of Ra’s chosen tone in the mix. Then Jayve Montgomery added an EWI as a solo voice on a few tunes, just to get some air-blown signal (and a natural shout out to EWI master Marshall Allen) in there, after all. It felt like somewhere in the universe, Ra was decreeing it.

    ‘Switched On Ra’ is an effervescent celebration of music throughout time and space.

    TRACK LISTING

    Space Is The Place
    A Call For All Demons
    Outer Spaceways Incorporated
    Moon Dance
    Lanquidity
    Opus In Springtime
    Island In The Sun
    We Travel The Spaceways

    Bitchin Bajas

    Bajascillators

      ‘Amorpha’, a side-long shower of synthetic bells and bass, as patterns interlock and repeat and the beat within the bar lines shifts constantly, forms a new, latest miniature of infinity. You flip it, and ‘Geomancy’ resets you, starting anew, with heavy drift and drone leading into a space of shorter broken lines and Middle Eastern tonalities, that roll back into ether again - new spaces, but mysteriously consonant with the vibe.

      ‘Bajascillators’ arrives almost five years since their last official fulllength, 2017’s ‘Bajas Fresh’. In the eight years prior to ‘Bajas Fresh’, Bitchin Bajas issued seven albums, plus cassettes, EPs, singles… wave after wave of analogue synth tones and zones extending into a stratospheric arc. Each release its own headspace, shape and timbre, each one sliding naturally into their implacable, eternal gene pool.

      Following the flow, always, the Bajas went ever-deeper-and-higher on these records, whether making soundtracks or collaborating with Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, using only fortune cookie fortunes as a libretto. Plus engagement, with a steady stream of shows and tours around the world; live re-airings and expansions of the space captured in their records as they continued to grow and flow - all the way through, really, to the present moment.

      Plus, there have been releases since 2017 - a split 12”, a 7” single, digital track release and two ‘Cuts’ cassettes, plus the allcovers cassette release ‘Switched On Ra’. But the overall number of releases, plus the five years between long players, implies a potential distance between phases, a new line in the sand. The sound of Bajascillators bear this out. How couldn’t it? Compared to 2017, this is a different world.

      Mastered directly from half-inch analogue tape, ‘Bajascillators’ floats transparently from the speakers, its expansive grooves gathering resonance and building momentum over the four sides, from genesis to re-conclusion, cascading ecstatically. The elastic magic of time at its brightest. As the world keeps turning, so too do Bitchin Bajas, in the same unknowable way. You can’t explain it - just keep turning.

      TRACK LISTING

      Amorpha
      Geomancy
      World B. Free
      Quakenbrück

      Bitchin Bajas And Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

      Epic Jammers And Fortunate Little Ditties

      YES! An unlikelier of collabs on the face of it comes to pass, and makes SO much sense upon consideration that you wonder why you hadn’t rioted for your right to experience this sooner. Chill, man! Life gave you a surprise — a missing peace — now GO with it.

      Yessir, Bitchin Bajas and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy be in righteous and TRUE collaboration on this one, flowing ideas through the air between them, which seems a rare thing in this age where records course forth without wires, pieced together out of the zeros and ones that divide and don’t define us. The air’s meant to be shared, and that’s how Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties came to pass — a morning, afternoon and evening of frisson in blissed acceptance of the eternal recurrence. And it always came.

      These guys GET each other. They share a passion for arresting the moment in the process of now, and both of ’em get music from this action in their way. Bajas have a fan in Bonny; their ability to stretch time and get in between the grains scratches his itch to LIVE in those instances. And this makes him a worthy co-jammer, a fourth plane to the BB triangle that quantifies and dimensionalizes the sound. Inevitable, then, that they’d do something. Their first blend was for the Shirley Collins tribute comp, a rendition of “Pretty Saro” that built from the starkness and tonal monophony of the auld ballads and opened the hatch to timeless stasis. But if more was desired (which it was), more would be needed — the full trio of Bajas in the room together, in audience with the ‘Prince.’ Following one of their many mini-jaunts around the country, Bitchin Bajas stopped by Bonnie’s aerie one day after tour to make it so.

      It was an epic and fortunate day.

      Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties contains moments of tranquility and trance, with the players integrating their separate ways, vibing off each other, making songs together. Bonny is at his spiritmelting celestial best wandering through a lifetime of fortunes that amount, when incanted, to a prayer to the god of many names. The Bajas’ access to the universal aural paintbox is unparalleled; their reach is deep. And it all went down onto a 2-track reel-toreel in primitive left-right seps that helped to define their ability to finish it in mixing. These WERE jams, with whatever preparation, gear, thought and cords — vocal and electric — backgrounded, in support of intuition and what existed AT THE MOMENT.

      Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties is simple and stark and empyrean and inspirational...and pretty modal, too — probably never more than three chords! — as Bonny and the Bajas pursue the life of the spirit down ever-fading vapor trails, in a bottomless (and topless — let ’em loose!) space.

      TRACK LISTING

      1 May Life Throw You A Pleasant Curve
      2 Nature Makes Us For Ourselves
      3 Your Heart Is Pure, Your Mind Is Clear, Your Soul Devout
      4 Your Whole Family Are Well
      5 Despair Is Criminal
      6 You Are Not Superman
      7 Show Your Love And Your Love Will Be Returned
      8 You Will Soon Discover How Truly Fortunate You Really Are
      9 Your Hard Work Is About To Pay Off, Keep On Keeping On

      Bitchin Bajas

      Bitchitronics

        Bitchin Bajas are back. Their new album, ‘Bitchitronics’, is ready with the quickness expected from the Chi-based duo. They make slow music at a fast pace.

        Since their first appearance way back in 2010, Bitchin Bajas’ approach has been simple - unfold tones via synth and keyboard, allowing micro-frequencies to press against each other in a way that pleases the ear, the mind and the soul. That’s part of the fun of being Bitchin Bajas, getting into and off on the circuits and signal paths and waveforms. From record to record (three albums, two split singles, a cassette, and a 12” EP), their process is redefined by confronting the technologies of formative and outmoded machines, which slides the Bajas’ sound into different quadrants of the ambient / post-organic / electronic / drone universe each time around.

        Recording was mostly done in, all over and around a house in Fennville, Michigan, with three tape machines reeling in the sounds - so sometimes, in addition to sounds that have never been seen, you’re also hearing the sound of the light of day, or evening stars, on tape.

        In keeping with the concept of catching air with tape, ‘Bitchitronics’ is the first Bitchin Bajas record made as a trio, blending the blowing of flute into the mix of electric keys and posthuman tones and loops of tape atop other loops of tape, with the final result coming to us with all the ebbing and flowing of a breeze.

        Let the power of ‘Bitchitronics’ fall over you. Another green world of music made Baja-fresh by the wandering ears and care-filled creations and re-creations of Bitchin Bajas.


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