Monday 11 April 2022, 8pm
It’s almost four years since their last opus — two years since the most-recent run of live shows! Now, Bitchin Bajas return from whatever kind of rare ether they occupy when they’re at home, bearing the riches of the whole cosmos in their hands. And strictly OG as well—on cassette only!
Switched On Ra is the outcome of a typical Bajas exercise: pouring some out for the pioneers that came before (as they’ve done with Bitchitronics and their participation in the annual Chicago performance of “In C” over the years). It’s a nice way to get a flow—they play a little of themselves, then some for the pioneers, then a little more for the band. Before long, they’re playing with the inspirations twined, as they can only come from within.
For Switched On Ra, this meant a deep delve into the song-book of one of their soul-predeces- sors, Sun Ra, whose music is literally written in the Bajas DNA. Digging into this music sounded wild on paper: the drone synth group taking on the Arkestra harmonies and Ra’s loose grooves? The trick was to get that sense of rhythm to translate across the spectrum from Ra to Bajas, in a way that worked for them both.
In 2017 Jeremiah Chiu & Marta Sofia Honer traveled together to the Åland Islands (an archipelago that is host to around 6,500 islands) in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland. They headed to the islands with the intention of helping two friends (mother/daughter duo Jannika/Sage Reed) barn raise a small inn named Hotel Svala in Kumlinge (a municipality consisting of a small group of islands and a population of about 320). The idea was that, once completed, Svala would host artist residencies and workshop programs, creating a direct link between the islands and the USA.
The concept of recording music there came about as Honer & Chiu learned more and more about the islands. They were taken by the serene and strange quality of the place. The sun doesn’t set in the summer (and barely rises in the winter). The network of miniature islands is traversed by ferry which, according to Chiu, “casts a surreal horizontal movement through space and time, with islands shifting into and out of periphery, totally still and calm, yet always in motion.”
In 2019 they were awarded a grant from the Department of Culture to return and perform a concert at the Kumlinge Kyrka, a 14th century medieval church adorned with incredible frescos. The concert was recorded and became source material – along with improvisations on viola and electronics, pipe organ, pump organ, piano, synthesizers, field recordings and voice memos, all captured across both their trips at various locations on the archipelago – from which they meticulously crafted a post-script in the form of Recordings from the Åland Islands.
John has been exploring electronic and electro-acoustic sounds for nearly 50 years. His first encounter was with an early valve version of a Watkins Electronic Music Copicat, a violin with a guitar pick up and an effects pedal. Later, whilst at music college he was able to access synthesisers the size of old telephone switchboards and reel to reel tape recorders with 10 yard tape loops around jam jars. Following many years of composing, performing, and recording as a jazz saxophonist, a clarinettist in various orchestras, John now spends much of his time with modular synthesisers. His formative music years were greatly influenced by the music of Cornelius Cardew, John Cage, and Luciano Berio as well as his guide and mentor R. Murray Schafer, Canadian composer and educator. John has composed music for film, radiophonic broadcasts, and theatre productions and was commissioned to produce the ‘Terra Nova’ suite celebrating the centenary of Scott’s expedition and first performed at The Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge. He plays a wide range of styles from keyboard-based synthesiser music to purely modular forms and ‘found sounds’ through field recordings. John also plays sax in a jazz trio and performed in the opening week of Symphony Hall in Birmingham. He is currently Composer/Musician-in-Residence for Birmingham Modular Organisation. John is currently working on a number of music projects including a tribute to Alvin Lucier, ‘The Glowing Moon and the Lonely Gardens’ inspired by the electronic music of Eliane Radigue, and ‘The Allotment project’ collecting sounds from gardens, windows boxes, etc from people all over the world. By day, John is Dr John, a Consultant in the field of Autism.
Recent electronic releases include, in 2020, ‘Structures’, in 2021 ‘Perambulations 1’ and in 2022, ‘Witch Tones’ all available at handmadesound.bandcamp.com and on CD.
Electro-acoustic music and jazz outputs remain exclusively in the live music domain.