Borbetomagus, Paal Nilssen-Love & Ken Vandermark | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Borbetomagus, Paal Nilssen-Love & Ken Vandermark 

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In the annals of noise few speaker shredders have kicked up as violently assaultive a din as the New York trio Borbetomagus, who've been at it for two and a half decades now. While saxophonists Jim Sauter and Donald Dietrich and tabletop guitarist Donald Miller use a battalion of effects pedals and high-powered amps, what makes them unique among noisemongers is that the roots of their sound tend to be organic--there's nothing more human than breath. The reedists--friends since grade school--apply their love of Albert Ayler's shrieking melodicism to their Stockhausian electronic maelstrom; they drop microphones into the bells of their horns, attach lengths of rubber tubing to their mouthpieces, and blow as if they're trying to extinguish the fires of hell. Last year's Songs Our Mother Taught Us (Agaric) can sound like anything from an orchestra of string players sawing away underwater to a screaming chorus of castrati trying to raise their pitch even higher. They're superb improvisers with quicksilver control of their instruments, and once your ears adjust to the sonic wallop--earplugs wouldn't be a bad idea--there's an array of constantly shifting details to take in. (Full disclosure: in the early 90s I released two singles by Borbetomagus, both now out of print.)

With Hamid Drake increasingly busy around the globe, it seems like Norwegian Paal Nilssen-Love has become Ken Vandermark's main drummer these days--they're in no less than three bands together--and on their latest release, Dual Pleasure 2 (Smalltown Superjazzz), it's easy to hear why. The two discs of improvised duets contain restrained, texture-oriented sound pieces as well as full-throttle blowouts on which Vandermark's funky extrapolations are propelled by Nilssen-Love's tornado of polyrhythms. Thomas Brinkmann (see below) headlines and Cantilever Rainbow opens. Friday 24, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $15. See also Saturday.

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