There’s a Mark Rothko painting I like to look at when I go to the Chicago Art Institute. It’s large canvas, a square of burnt orange sitting atop a square of yellow, simple enough. Yet if you stare at it long enough, you begin to see striations and gradations in the tone, undercurrents of darker and lighter color, subtle shifts in intensity that seem almost musical. “Turiya” from Bitchtronics seems to me like an audible variety of the same experience, a monochrome soundscape that opens up in concentrated listening into dense, woozy variegation, the tones and undertones and ghost echoes filling space from edge to edge. The piece is enveloping, expansive and nowhere near as simple as it first appears.
Bitchtronics is comprised of four long cuts, each composed out of looped recordings. None are quite as abstract and meditative as “Turiya,” but they share a certain bedrock stillness, as if the sounds themselves coalesced somehow into silence. This fourth album for Bitchin Bajas incorporates a somewhat larger palette of sounds. Founder Cooper Crain, who is in the far more driving Cave, has brought two others into his project lately –Dan Quinlivan (who used to be in Mahjongg) and Rob Frye, who plays a variety of wind instruments. You can hear bits of flute and the low tones of something reed-ish — a saxophone or clarinet — fluttering amidst the drones, but these elements are not exactly melodic either, just another variety of long-tone vibration.
The briefest of these tracks is “Sun City,” like its brethren rising out of a hazy aura of sustained tones which builds and intensifies over minutes rather than measures. It’s the tremulous sound of something taking shape, of imminence. You expect a melody to rise out of it at any moment, and indeed, there’s a slow-shifting organ line that crests the soundwaves about a third of the way through. Yet the organ line never really subordinates the mass of sound that it emerges from. The point, the thing to listen to, is the restless interplay of tone which refracts any attempt at melody like a prism glass, into fleeting flashes of color. Bitchtronics is never about the line that carries you through the song, but rather about the dense subtly shifting bed of tone that stretches from end to end of these enveloping compositions.
DOWNLOAD: “Turiya” “Sun City”