The work of ambient composers in the wake of Brian Enos early 70s middle finger to Muzak can make it easy to forget that he initially intended the form as background music to enhance the sensations of existing spaces. As several generations of producers have teased out the possibilities of the concept, the most celebrated purveyors of the genre are those who abandon that central conceit. The Tim Heckers of the world apply the conventions and dynamics of classical composition (or at the very least post-rock), but as well as they do it, there remains an undercurrent of those who celebrate stillness rather than movement, placidity rather than agitation. Though those adjectives can certainly be applied to the work of any musician working in the ambient mode, Chicago’s Bitchin Bajas and their latest LP Bitchitronics have come to embody them more wholeheartedly.
Rather than the plotted course of heaving sighs that mark most ambient music, the basis for Bitchin Bajas’ work seems to echo Eno’s mission statement. “Transcendence” opens Bitchitronics with the subtle whir of synth pads and the crackling of cassette tapes. Then it just sits there. Rather than indulge in swings and crescendos, “Transcendence” slowly unfurls and flaps in the wind. Changes are incremental rather than monumental. The emphasis here is on subtle shifts in timbre rather than movementthat is until a guitar solo Fripps its way through the mix, tearing asunder the track’s synthy bed. But in Bitchin Bajas’ world, even a narcotized, non sequitur guitar solo serves not to push the track further along its course, but to emphasize its tranquility.
Throughout, the sounds of warped and rewound tapes take precedence, but the whirring and whinnying only stirs up serenity. Bitchitronics is content in its aimlessness. Its focus is its own world and colors, however lightly, the world outside. Its strokes are broad, light, and abstract. It demands your attention and then allows you to tune it back out. There’s no plotted course, but the beauty lies in the meander.
Essential Tracks: “Transcendence”, “Turiya”