Free improv music pioneers Borbetomagus still making noise

By Matt Micucci

The influential no-hold barred insurrectionists to be celebrated in a documentary and to release a re-issue of their 1981 album Work on What Has Been Spoiled.

When it came to stretching the boundaries of jazz, even further than exponents of free jazz, there was arguably no one that did it as drastically as New York city based Borbetomagus. So extreme, in fact, was their brand of free improvisation music that they pushed the envelope of the concept of jazz, free or otherwise, to its breaking point and have been cited by critics as pioneers of the aggressive improvised noise music.

They are particularly considered influential on the Japanese music scene, and have been quoted by American rock, free jazz and noise musicians – from Sonic Youth to Thomas Ankersmit.

Borbetomagus formed in 1979, when saxophone players Jim Sauter and Don Dietrich joined with electric guitarist Donald Miller. They composed the backbone spone on a group that, still to this day, continue to bring their distinctive brand of wild and furious music around the world.

Their experimentation has been described as “huge and overpowering”. One of their trademark techniques, was called “bells” together. Sauter and Dietrich would place the bells of their saxhophones together while playing.

Having been active for more than forty decades, Borbetomagus shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, 2016 promises to be a decidedly busy and pivotal one for the free improvisation noise vets.

The band is to be celebrated in a one-hour long documentary called A Pollock of Sound, which is being currently put together by Belgian filmmaker Jef Martens. The film will draw on interviews, archival material and recent performance footage to trave the history and influence of these no-holds barred insurrectionists.

Borbetomagus are then also set to release several visceral recordings in the near future. One of these will be a special vinyl reissue of their 1981 album Work on What Has been Spoiled on their own Agaric imprint.

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