Borbetomagus | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Fans of extremity in music--jazz, rock, classical, whatever--here's your ship come in. Borbetomagus is perhaps the most devastating noise band on the globe, with an approach to building and tearing apart massive edifices of sound that makes similar attempts by Einsturzende Neubauten and Glenn Branca simply irrelevant. Comprising a three-man squad from upstate New York, the band features Jim Sauter and Donald Dietrich on saxophones and Donald Miller on guitar. At heart Miller is Hendrixian; if you pick him out of the intricate noise web you'll hear a ragged distortion-washed 60s sound and frequent forays into feedback. At times he'll lay his old, beat-up Rickenbacker flat, turn it up to outrageous levels, and pluck, scratch, and otherwise abuse the metal machine. Sauter and Dietrich are a frightening horn section if ever there was one. They'll drop live microphones into their horns for explosive, head-ringing impact or press their sax bells together, exchanging scorched air columns and letting the ensuing vibrations produce acoustical alchemy. The result combines the palpability of free-jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler, the density of composer Iannis Xenakis, and the pounding surf at Big Sur. Borbetomagus's eponymous first record, made 15 years ago, has just been reissued on their own Agaric label. Along with gems like Snuff Jazz, Zurich, and Fish That Sparkling Bubble, which was recorded with brilliant Swiss noisemakers Voice Crack, it provides a strong sense of what the band is capable of achieving on wax. But records give little indication of how truly earthshaking Borbeto can be in person. Listeners who caught them a few years ago at Lower Links only got a partial show, since the usually bright Miller was more or less unproductive. The curious shouldn't miss this; the fearful should stay away. Friday, 10 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Kenn Michael.

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