Saturday, January 2, 2016

2015 Albums of the Year: Bitchin' Bajas - Transporteur

I'm going through my albums of the year (listed in their entirety at LUNA's site) – relistening and revisiting – and giving them a much-deserved if belatedly abbreviated write-up. One-by-one. Because they deserve more than a number on a list, even if my own list is unranked (he said, haughtily). So, with no further adieu, here's the first record...alphabetically.

Bitchin' Bajas - Transporteur

Chicago's Bitchin' Bajas are a crew I've been following for a couple years now. Though I can't remember how I initially became aware of their existence, their fantastic (if extremely short) set at the last-for-now Indianapolis psych/garage-explosion/fest CATARACTS sealed the deal. What was once a side excursion from neo-kraut rockists CAVE now almost seems to be their main project, at least in sheer terms of productivity, for Cooper Crain, Rob Frye, and Dan Quinlivan.

Following quickly on the heels of last year's immersive, highly organic, sprawling self-titled double-LP on inimitable Drag City, Transporteur (released in limited fashion by French label Hands In the Dark) is a much different, refined animal. The touchstones are still here – the Bajas are well-versed in the 20th century masters of avant-garde minimalist/new-age composition – the obvious forefathers here are Steve Reich, Brian Eno, Terry Riley, Cluster, and the like. Whether the recording is improvised or highly edited, they waste no time accessing a mood or flow and riding it into the ether with sublime abandon.

(Bitchin' Bajas at CATARACTS...2013?)

While there were some outre synth workouts found amidst the warmer tones of self-titled, Transporteur begins in a starkly different territory with career highlight "Raias Baixas": a Hutter/Schneider-ish beat, whose phased stutter/polyrhythm is too stilted to be completely Kraftwerk-ian.  A cold, fragile high-hat accents the polyrhythm and is slowly joined by oscillations and fat bass tones. Gradually, the ice melts – warm synths seep in, at first unnoticed, but soon coloring and coating the entire structure, while the cymbals bloom like a frozen flower. The masterful way that "Raias Baixas" consistently shifts and moves into new territory, all while retaining the crucial flow established in the early moments – it's most amazing to accomplish all that without jarring the listener out of a trance-like state. As the cymbals whisper out of existence, the negative space that is left swoops and whirls with synth splashes, the lower deck pulsing with interwoven bass tones. When the end is tied up neatly in warbly, pitch-shifted organ, you've arrived somewhere completely different than where you departed, without noticing you've moved at all. It's a monumental achievement in a completely digestible 10-minute trip.

(Great performance of "Raias Baixas" – take that, Pfork crowd.)

Elsewhere, "Planète T" softly filters lush tones with slow-motion, reverse-loop feedback. After the jarring coldness of the opener, it's a perfectly drawn bath. Rob Frye's flute dances around the edges, before coming through in clusters, while the cymbals here are coloration, not drivers. They rise and fall, blurry mountains in the distance. I could live here. "Marimba" pairs a percolating synth-loop with a balance of burbling marimba in the left channel and Frye's dulcet flute, this time in a lower register, panned mostly to the right. The result is both hypnotic and enchanting – additional heft clambers in via organs, and the resulting propulsive track moves forward at a good clip, though softly, hovering above the ground or sea on the utterly transfixing flute solos. Closer "No Tabac" is a bit of an outlier, beginning with rounded, bubbly rhythms that are reminiscent of smoothed over thumb piano or other percussive-yet-melodic engines. The proto-world-beat that emerges, in clicks and claps (a shaker, even!) is as close to dance-party as the Bajas get on this set. The bass is downright Kuti-esque, and Frye's sax (or altered flute?), slightly overdriven, riffs hard and loops back on itself noisily. It's some funky shit, not sanded down, and a palate cleanser for you to flip the platter and dive right back into the opener.

[This post is Day 2 of the Think Kit project. I took a lifeline and wrote about music that moved me!]

No comments:

Post a Comment