As CAVE’s Cooper Crain invests more of his creative energy into his Bitchin’ Bajas side project, the results grow increasingly enjoyable. On last year’s Bitchitronics, the band’s first as a trio with Dan Quinlivan and Rob Frye, the group created four long, zoned-and-stoned affairs. On this twice-as-long self-titled follow-up, there’s still plenty of that and more. The opening “Tilang” clocks in at over 18 minutes, but it starts with a snarling string quartet playing off Frye’s bursts on horn and a mesmerizing bed of analog synths.
The band takes clear inspiration from heart-of-the-’70s groups like Ash Ra Tempel, who jettisoned rock ‘n’ roll for synthesizer explorations supplemented by other instruments. There’s an intriguing tension between the song titles and the songs themselves: “Orgone” is named after Wilhelm Reich’s purported sexual energy source, but rather than coming across like early porn sleaze, it feels like a deep cut from last year’s I Am the Center overview of early New Age music, full of contemplative, intimate serenity.
Field recordings underscore bubbling synth tones and serene flutes; moaning saxophone provides a bed for shimmering keyboards. Whether it’s the xylophone forming a rising and falling core to “Asian Carp” or the entwined keyboard lines and drones of the concluding “Pieces of Tape,” Bitchin’ Bajas constantly shows a mastery of form in balancing studio tricks with musicians performing in the moment. The further “relaxation” interpretations offered on the cassette version — two sidelong pieces, both entrancing elaborations of the core album’s work — add to this collection’s quietly engaging impact.