Bitchin Bajas Bitchin Bajas

[Drag City; 2014]

Styles: drone, synthesis, pastoral
Others: Cave, Fluxbikes, Steve Hillage, Dolphins into the Future, Terry Riley

Relax. Feel the waves of relaxation wash over your body. Beginning at your toes, feel each one relax as a soothing ripple of calm moves over your legs, up into your back and chest, out into your arms and fingers, up your neck, across your face. Let ripple after ripple release all the tension from your body. A final wave of peaceful energy dissolves all your cares. On the count of three, you will experience total serenity. One… Two… Three…

You are now capable of understanding the value of an album like Bitchin Bajas’ self-titled. Instead of an intense, attention-snaring opener, the Chicago synth wigglers offer “Tilang,” a calm 18-and-a-half-minute slab of evolving drone, arpeggiated synths, and twinkling autoharp. Runs up and down scales erase any tension that ever had a chance to accumulate. Everything resolves. Nothing hurts. But there’s plenty happening. It’s not merely the droning background that serves to pacify the nerves, but also all the elements that draw the psyche in and out of the dronepool, like seafoam touching the skin before the water totally immerses it.

Even the fauna seems to assist you in your search for serenity. Through the field recordings on “Field Study,” birds call — then turn into synthesizers. The splashing water, presumably against your glass-bottomed boat, also melts into the synthesis, the transition occurring so smoothly that one might hardly notice the difference. And, sonically, nature is a synthesizer. We only have to tune in to the music. As the field recording shows the listener this process, it morphs into a new, synthetic landscape, a hyperreal personal island complete with virtual babbling brook and mechanical birds of paradise.

It’s only during the latter portions of Bitchin Bajas when moments of tension arise; though, by the very end, the album has almost faded into dreamy impressions of songs, such as on the looping album-ender “Pieces of Tape.” But even the tense minimalism of “Brush” has a kind of calm tone, its constancy never interrupted. Tension and choppy repetition occur on Bitchin Bajas, but they act as a sort of vibrating belt in a sanatorium or a back-massaging chair, minimal and seemingly endless, creating a more intense but still peaceful zone for the relaxing mind.

Bitchin Bajas achieves what you might call “active zoning.” Which is to say that Crain and Frye don’t merely provide a layer of ambient sound to rest within, but instead construct more complex sonic spaces into which their evolving melodic cycles constantly invite the listener. Each track is a synthetic, paradisal landscape, but within that landscape, Crain and Frye are gently fanning away insects, serving you iced beverages, and generally attending to your comfort. Bitchin Bajas is a spa resort for the ears, with many comfortable zones under its pleasure dome.

Links: Bitchin Bajas - Drag City

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