Borbetomagus Documentary Reviewed

Source: burning ambulance.

I’ve known the members of Borbetomagus for over 20 years. I first heard their music in 1988 or 1989. I read about them in Byron Coley‘s “Underground” column in Spin magazine, and bought their Live in Allentown cassette at Bleecker Bob’s Records in New York. In 1996, when I had just begun writing about music for money, I interviewed them for the Aquarian Weekly. By then I’d heard more of their work, including the amazing (and currently out of print) Buncha Hair That Long CD. A year or two after that, I finally saw them live—first at the Cooler, co-billed with Charles Gayle, then at Tonic, co-billed with Merzbow. In 2005 or so, I wrote an essay about Live in Allentown for The Wire‘s “Epiphanies” column; when the band decided to reissue the cassette on CD, with a previously unreleased second set appended, they used the piece as liner notes. In 2010, I wrote a cover story about them for Signal to Noise. And I’ve written about them for Burning Ambulance several times.

Consequently, it’s impossible for me to approach a documentary about them with any objectivity. I love their music, and I like them all as people. So I was extremely excited when I heard about Jef Mertens‘ A Pollock of Sound (get it from Amazon), a history and portrait of the group made with their full cooperation and filmed over the course of a half dozen years or so. (The 2009 live performance that inspired Mertens to make the movie is included on the DVD as a bonus feature.)