Bitchin Bajas reach new heights of musical hypnosis and exploration on Bajas Fresh | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Bitchin Bajas reach new heights of musical hypnosis and exploration on Bajas Fresh 

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click to enlarge Bitchin Bajas

Bitchin Bajas


On Bajas Fresh (Drag City), Chicago’s Bitchin Bajas’ first noncollaborative album in three years, the band members offer a trenchant summary of their interests and strengths that feels more profound and mature than anything else they’ve accomplished. Recent partnerships with Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Natural Information Society have conveyed the collective versatility of bandmates Cooper Crain, Rob Frye, and Dan Quinlivan, but the new album articulates the group’s weed-powered vision in Technicolor splendor. Synth-driven opener “Jammu” performs a sort of post-Terry Riley hypnosis, and the undulating, spaced-out drone of “2303” is enriched by Nick Broste’s subtle trombone and Ben Lamar Gay’s cornet. The group have richly blossomed from their Kosmiche beginnings into something far more expansive—cycling arpeggios a la Tangerine Dream might still ripple through a piece such as “Circles on Circles,” but their tones are sharper and fuller than on previous recordings. I’m thrilled by their mesmerizing reimagining of Sun Ra’s “Angels and Demons at Play” and the layers of spaced-out synthesizers on “Yonaguni,” which features guest appearances from Ghost’s Masaki Batoh, who lends postprog guitar explorations, and free-jazz drumming from former Chicagoan Nori Tanaka. On the gorgeously serene “Chokayo,” like “Yonaguni” recorded in Japan, Frye’s fluent flute and bass clarinet add a stunning richness to the swirling synthesizer lines; together, they cumulatively unfurl with the type of patience and warmth that distinguish Bitchin Bajas from the growing ranks of facile indie spell casters. The album concludes magnificently, Frye’s billowing, electronically tweaked saxophone improvisations unspooling over a rich hymnlike tapestry of organ tones on “Be Going.”   v


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