Shaking Off The Early Morning Haze
Collaborations are often tricky business, a tightrope walking act in which each person must maintain perfect balance or they risk bringing down the whole affair. Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties is the first collaboration between Bonnie “Prince” Billy (Will Oldham) and Bitchin Bajas and it does a wonderful job of balancing itself on a tightrope that could have snapped at any moment.
The album is presented in a “jam session” style, lending a deeply personal feeling to the music. The tracks are often drawn out and seem to flow on an effortless current, their only guide being a rapidly shifting train of thought. Strangely enough this manages to enhance the album instead of harm it. The album’s rapid shifting nature allows it to negate one of the most notable complaints about collaborations involving Billy, that he (for better or worse) is a show-stealer, his highly characteristic folky croon often drowning out other contributors. Bitchin Bajas shifting production and free flowing aesthetic is grounded by Billy and he is held within a non-dominant range by the same factor.
The greatest triumph of this album is its propensity to remain unpredictable. Each section of the music feels strangely like a train of thought or a lonesome bird flitting erratically from branch to branch as its whim shifts and changes. This manages to keep the album engaging without being exhausting, its free floating ability resonates with a natural pattern of thought, each piece like a waking dream, often lofty and ethereal, Billy’s voice lifted and echoed throughout the mix like someone softly whispering to try and wake you from your sleep. The songs will rapidly shift from this dreamlike state into a more tangible reality where the instruments move faster and Billy’s voice is dropped out of the echoes and find themselves immediately filled with a more concrete tone. Whether the album intended to capture this or not, it is a perfect sonic representation of waking up late on a day with nothing to do, the strange dreamy textures often suddenly giving way to more frantic instrumentation mimics the early morning haze struggling to be brushed off.
This album does a wonderful job of staying relevant and interesting, succeeding in areas where many ambient and drone pieces fall flat. Billy’s contributions to the album are engaging and lend an extra dimension of gravity to each song, allowing a smooth entry point for many who may be unaware of Bitchin Baja’s, by adding a warm familiar tone to music that could be easily classified as inaccessible to many. Hopefully this album is a sign of things to come within the realm of ambient and alternative folk music.