Borbetomagus - Live in Allentown

"It was [Byron Coley's "Underground" column in Spin] that I read about Borbetomagus, specifically their cassette-only release Live In Allentown. I don't have the magazine anymore, so I can't quote Coley's prose, but whatever he wrote about this sax-sax-guitar trio from upstate New York, I had to hear them. [...] When the first hideously distorted shrieks and roars hit my ears, I almost fell over from the raw force of it. That couldn't be a saxophone - it sounded like someone being torn limb from limb. Was that a guitar, or someone revving up a gigantic engine to the brink of explosion? In truth, it was hard to even discern one sound from the others. Nothing on the tape had any obvious reference points in anything else I owned, or had ever heard. Even Meditations, the screechiest album in my collection, sounded like lounge music compared to this. I was terrified, but I couldn't stop listening. I had to hear what came next. The first side of the tape contains a single long piece, ending in tape slice. The second side picks up with what might be the same piece. After eight minutes or so, there's a brief burst of applause, and some shouts of "Encore!" from a very enthusiastic woman, then the next (and final) section begins. The Borbetomagus lineup documented is a quartet, with Adam Nodelman on bass in addition to saxophonists Jim Sauter and Don Dietrich and guitarist Donald Miller. Nodelman actually plays some fairly straight low chords near the end of the second side, as though attempting to anchor the music and keep it from becoming total noise. Toward the end, someone (maybe a Borbetomagus member) begins vocalizing in a manner reminiscent of early Butthole Surfers, as Miller's guitar and at least one of the saxophones continue to sputter, snarl and squeal. I listened to Live In Allentown almost daily for a couple of years, even forcing it on friends who wanted no part. I began to memorize the subtle, almost intuitive shifts in what had initially seemed like an unceasing, undifferentiated roar. The interplay between group members revealed itself. And this repeated close listening began to alter the way I heard other music. I sought out harsher and more punishing sounds in general, yes, but I also started to pick apart all the music I heard, trying to understand what each player was contributing to the whole, rather than hearing a record as a solid mass with the vocalist slapped on top like a pizza topping. Live In Allentown taught me to listen like a critic."-Phil Freeman, The Wire
  • LabelAgaric
Your Price $14.00

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