*2022 stock* 'Regardless of who he's working with, Will Oldham's voice is the dominant ingredient of his collaborations. If he's singing a quiet Everly Brothers duet with Dawn McCarthy or crooning on a record with the Cairo Gang, he's the piece of the puzzle that grabs your attention most readily. Even in fleeting cameo appearances, like the moments where he sings on Sun Kil Moon's "Carissa," his presence lingers long after he's done singing. For better or worse, he's got this quality about him where other artists, regardless of their stature, are destined to become his supporting players.
That's what happened the first time Bitchin Bajas worked with Oldham. On a Record Store Day one-off, the Chicago-based avant garde trio functioned as a Bonnie "Prince" Billy backing band. While Oldham sang the traditional English folk ballad "Pretty Saro" in tribute to Shirley Collins, the Bajas provided a soft ambiance that lingered behind his voice. It's a lovely rendition of the song, but given the Bajas' discography of repetitive, spaced-out, and freeflowing improvisations, the collaboration felt conservative and brief. Oldham, a professed fan of his labelmates' records, likely realized this, too. He invited them to his house, and in a single day, they recorded an album that sounds a lot more Bajas than Billy.
Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties is absolutely a jam session—an improvisational democracy where everyone has equal footing. Oldham takes a step back here, letting himself become part of the greater stew of Gamelan instruments, organ, synthesizer, and acoustic guitars. Nobody takes a full-on solo; they meander, coming in with a prominent contribution before drifting back to the sidelines. Everything repeats multiple times for swirling, serene eight-minute stretches. Repetition is key to Bitchin Bajas' sound—they thrive when they're given maximum space, taking time to experiment and explore different pockets of a song. In photos from the recording sessions, you can see Oldham sitting cross-legged on the floor with the band, all four of them playing assorted keyboards. Dan Quinlivan and Cooper Crain twist knobs; Rob Frye's flute lies close at hand in case the right moment presents itself. (On several occasions, it does.) This is Bitchin Bajas' ideal, off-the-cuff zone. They revel in the freedom to chase a sound "based on the energy" of a given moment.' - Pitchfork