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A review of...
Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties by Bitchin Bajas and Bonnie Prince Billy
A disclaimer: I've never heard a Bonnie Prince Billy album all the way through, I've got him "in the bank" so to speak, along with Cocteau Twins and Animal Collective, a vault which I intend to crack when I've got the time to give them my full attention, possible binge on the whole back catalogue. I've also never heard Bitchin Bajas at all, so I'm not 100% sure why I picked this album out of the digital promo bag. But anyway, it can be safely said that I'm coming into this record as a complete novice, so there will be no comparisons with past glories/failures.
This collaboration was first announced as a three day live residency at Cafe Oto in London, but nine tracks have now been released on an album called Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties. A fittingly slap-dash title, in that these songs sound like the results of an improvised demo session. Ideas are instigated, sometimes resulting in an elongated jam, and sometimes petering out within a couple of minutes. It's hard to imagine that these collaborations ever warranted more than one take of each song, rather they sound like organic ideas, laid down and then left on tape without much of an afterthought. And there's something quite refreshing about these recordings. Far rougher than most things that position themselves as DIY or Lo-Fi, this stuff has an authentic feel which draws you in, almost as if you're in the room with the musicians themselves.
The album revels in drone and ambience, unusual clattering percussion and looping vocals (see "Your Mind is Pure, Your Mind Is Clear, Your Soul Is Devout" for what is perhaps the definitive example), and it's not always clear who is contributing what, such is the synergy of this fine partnership. And although the songs are often droning and abstract the record as a whole comes off as remarkably positive, not a term that could usually be used to describe this style of music.
Maybe I'll make a Bonnie Prince Billy and a Bitchin Bajas sized withdrawal from that bank a bit earlier than I'd planned.
"You Are Not Superman" - a swirling mesmerising trip which sound's like one of Phosphorescent's early experimental works. Messy, but at the same time, perfect in every way.
"Despair Is Criminal" - woozy vocal overdubs and a Bill Callahan-esque lead delivery give this track a warm and fuzzy feel. A blissful summer anthem for the lazy.