Natural Information Society, like their partners in time Bitchin Bajas, live their days in flow motion. Rhythms come and go, instruments sound as a means to a greater end. Music is the way of their life.
Their debut convergence, Automaginary, feels as natural as it does inevitable. Both groups were first heard in 2010, both emerging from solo endeavors that accessed a vastness, more room than a single player might ultimately fill—a place then for fellow travelers! Joshua Abrams, a questing bassist and improviser by trade, with an extensive discography of solo recordings and collaborations with a wide variety of artists, formed Natural Information Society as a conduit for the live presentation of his guimbri music. Abrams had delved into the sound of the three-stringed Gnawan lute on his own, intrigued by the instrument’s ability to provide melodic and rhythmic direction with move from becalmed stasis to synthetic beat-building with a prescient liquidity. Of late, Rob Frye has a minimal, hypnotic palette. Over several years, many shows and three albums, Natural Information Society has featured some of Chicago’s most remarkable musicians while developing a sound situating Abrams’ compositions and playing in diverse sonic settings, amid ultimately consonant sounds from electric guitar, percussion, harmonium, reed instruments, bells, vibes and synthesizer. Over this time, a core lineup has emerged, featuring Frank Rosaly, Emmett Kelly, Ben Boye, Mikel Averyand Lisa Alvarado.
Known for the drone also are Bitchin Bajas. Cooper Crain of CAVE started the Bajas to explore his fascination with vintage electronics and recording techniques. With Dan Quinlivan on keyboards as well, Bitchin Bajas’ discography has explored a range of dynamic approaches, producing various proportions of atmosphere and soundtrack that LESS happen at the same time, all the time, transcending time and space by participating in it. joined, blowing reed and woodwind texture, and naturally adding only the necessary ripple to their slow-unfurling ecstatic process.
Both Natural Information Society and Bitchin Bajas are in pursuit of the unconscious in their musical expression, and through their independent methods, both have ridden the wind to unseen places, using the playing as the carpet that will take them there. A multitude of influences swarm amoebically in their sounds, from the mud of ancient Afro-groove to 20th-century classical austerity, from the clatter of freedom jazz to the 4/4 of kraut and disco and fusion beyond—and then beyond the music and into the air. Where the maximalistic proportion of Natural Information Society’s sextet jams with the plascent minimalism of Bitchin Bajas, the inevitable conclusion makes MORE and The collision makes everything disappear; “On No Fade” signals the reconfiguration of elements drifting glacially in a new age, an overture for their time together. Playing with delicacy and restraint, the coalition revels in their expanded environment, finding the new and making wholeness of every moment. With “Anemometer,” the drive of the guimbri becomes fully present, drawing the ensemble into its orbit, with cymbals, synths, autoharps and flute glinting rays of varying lengths like spokes in a wheel revolving. The discrete nature of the interaction in no way detracts from the power and peace of the playing. Abrams plays the small harp on “Tricks Me My Mind,” which segues seamlessly from the previous track while keys of varying shapes shimmer, and nearby, a flute sounds intermittent. “Sign Spinners” walks swiftly with chiming guitar, organ and bass clarinet shifting in and out and keeping pace while drums wring the beat forward and then apart with sly quicksilver hands. Finally, “Automaginary” relaxes and reaches back into old country beats, with gliding organ, synth and harmonium beyond the stepping of guimbri, as guitars, drums and wurlitzer riff along in their own inventions of time, all jamming together like outer space as seen from both feet on the ground.
Wrapped up in a screen-printed jacket from visual artist Lisa Alvarado, whose aesthetic sense is a touchstone for the vision of Natural Information Society, Automaginary is psychedelic and ambient and jazz—yet none of it either, the whole being more than the sum of former parts. This is music of unique variance, a remarkably perfect congregation of the two tribes that are Natural Information Society & Bitchin Bajas.