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A review of...
Bajas Fresh by Bitchin Bajas
Three years on since the last "proper" Bitchin Bajas album (2014's Bitchin Bajas), the band have returned refreshed and revitalised with a new album - Bajas Fresh. "Proper" is an important distinction, because Bitchin Bajas have kept their feet (well, pretty much their whole bodies) in the water with various interim projects including Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties", last year's excellent, ramshackle collaboration with Bonnie "Prince" Billy. Here though, they return to their core objective of creating textured, meditative and flowing music, free from the constraints of traditional pop or rock, but also a million miles away from most drone/ambient releases you'll hear this year. This seems to be music inspired by the light rather than the dark. On these seven tracks which range in duration from a snappy 6:18 to a more contemplative 23:04, Bitchin Bajas create some beautiful melodies via a combination of synths, field recordings, a little percussion and even some quite startling brass. It's the sort of album that just drifts through you and is over with before you know it, more's the pity. Incidentally, the artwork for this release is equally capable of drawing you in, you could get lost for hours staring at the rich layers of the fabric on show there, so it's an inspired pairing.
The real gems on this album though are saved for the finale - the parting trio of "2303", "Chokayo" and "Be Going". "2303" (which seems to have a 23:04 duration) is one of the most weirdly relaxing pieces of music I've ever heard. I don't mean relaxing in a Pan Pipes Moods sort of way because this is probably the most ominous piece on the record but there's something re-assuring and hypnotic about its continuous swirling organ. This is followed up by something rather more upbeat in "Chokayo", a title which sounds like a Studio Ghibli film, and the music does nothing to remove that association. It could easily form the soundtrack to some sort of massive dopey, friendly monster, making its way around a peaceful fishing village. It's childlike and fantastical and includes a bit of dramatic calamity in towards the end, before getting back to its familiar plodding. This is unlike anything else on Bajas Fresh and it's a real treat. The album is topped off with the aforementioned "Be Going" which is based around a warming single organ chord (which changes very occasionally to wonderful spine-tingling effect) and a seemingly improvised, or at least abstract Sax solo. This might not sound like much on paper but the Bitchin Bajas are masters of doing a lot with very little, and on Bajas Fresh they've done it again.