October 16, 2021

Bitchin Bajas & Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties

18/3/16

DRAG CITY

In the surprise combo of the year, Bonnie Prince Billy’s eccentricities meet the semi-modal freeflow of the Bitchin’ Bajas. Crooned calm and wise/platitudinous (delete depending on what mood you are in) thoughts from Bonnie “Prince” Billy are the focus here, riding a jangling, ramshackle yet metronomic backing from the Bitchin’s Bajas. Plucked strings and an assortment of acoustic wood instruments provide a pleasant and semi-tuneless backing (tunes would detract from the drone effect of the intoned lyrics.

Billy is working to a set of his collection of Chinese fortune cookie offerings, appearing to improvise beyond them but often repeating the title over and over until it is a mantra. He transforms into almost a human synth; his vocals become sequencers and arpeggios. With songs stretching to eight minutes, the effect is strangely calming.

The Bitchin’ Bajas work their collection of acoustic instruments and vintage analogue synths in a series of improvisations and jams. No one player dominates but each takes it in turn to steer and move forward. The sound is all about the Bajas, with Billy adding his work on top. Sometimes the backing rises to a shimmer, just as Billy moves to a croak, as in Despair Is Criminal. Other times, his vocals becomes part of the sound. Show Your Love stutters and shambles in painful sincerity and the platitudes become heartfelt.

The whole is one of this year’s strangest albums, something between form and formlessness, between sincere and trite, between music and sound. A compelling oddity to get your ears around.