Borbetomagus & Hijokaidan - Both Noises End Burning (Les Disques Victo CD)
I suppose I didn't really need to buy this CD. After all, I saw it when it happened. I lived through it once, and once was probably enough, all things considered. But for some reason I always find myself buying CDs of shows I already saw, and I'm not quite sure why - the experience is never the same, and isn't it better to leave certain things as memories instead of trying to relive them fruitlessly? Well maybe, but here I am with "Both Noises End Burning", a year and a bit after I saw the chaos unfurl before mine own eyes at the 2006 Festival International de Musique Actuelle in Victoriaville, Quebec. Borbetomagus and Hijokaidan, together on stage for the first and possibly only time. Two seminal noise groups from either side of the Pacific coming together to do what they do best - demolish. Borbetomagus is, of course, Jim Sauter and Don Dietrich on saxophones and Donald Miller on guitar, while Hijokaidan was, in this incarnation, Jojo Hiroshige on guitar, Junko Hiroshige on vocals, Toshiji Mikawa on electronics and Nao Shibata of Doodles on drums. I think the moment when all seven stalked the stage right before playing remains of the most intense and downright terrifying moments of my life. And then they started playing...
Junko's unbelieably shrill yelps into a microphone cranked up as high as humanly possible start the whole shebang, with the remaining six leaping in a second after, all setting out to make the loudest, most grueling piece of noise brutism ever laid to tape. Obviously it's lost somewhat in the translation to CD, but when sitting in the Victo Colisée, the only thought my remaining few brain cells could muster up was, "it's not really going to be this loud the whole time, is it?". Don't get me wrong - I've seen loud shows before. And anybody will tell you that a noise show in an impersonal, echo-ey coliseum ain't half as powerful as a noise show in somebody's basement where you're wiping the artist's sweat off your brow in addition to your own, but this performance singlehandedly proved that all wrong. This was far and away the loudest show I'd ever taken part of. It was loud to the point of obscenity. Or oppressiveness. Or ridiculousness. Whatever. But the remarkable thing is that they did it, from beginning to end, seventy-fucking-one minutes of non-stop, atonal wailing, in every possible sense of the word. Not once in the set is their the slightest hint of a pause. Sure certain players move in and out as they see fit, but the collective rage never stops roaring, which is truly remarkable. Listening to "Both Noises End Burning" is an overwhelming, completely exhausting experience, which makes it all the more mind-boggling to think that seven humans actually got up on a stage and produced this much noise at such a sustained volume for such a lengthy span of time. To discuss what happens musically is irrelevant, not to mention totally impossible - all seven members operate as one, like a Hydra attacking with numerous heads, and you're the unarmed Hercules at its mercy.
Unfortunately, as is always the case with live discs, the happenings of the original performance don't (or can't) carry over. Jojo's incredible rock star posturing, Sauter and Dietrich blowing water on everybody else through the bells of their saxophones, Jojo and Donald Miller's Spinal Tap-esque guitar duel, Miller shoving his arm into Sauter's saxophone to get his attention only to show him the time on his clock (and be shooed away for his efforts), Junko and Dietrich swapping microphones to somehow make her twice as loud and as deafening as she was when she started, and of course the group hug after 72 minutes of absolutely insane, mind-shattering waste-laying. Hard to imagine that here in this age there are still more boundaries to push and still more places to take the noise genre - a superficial, one-trick pony at face value. It's hard not to think of "The Challenger Deep" (the rather appropriate name given to the one track here) and its single-minded onslaught as some sort of next level in noise. Yes it follows a simple pattern that's been beaten to death by its own members back in the 70's and 80's - play as loud as you can as long as you can - but I can't think of an incident when it was fully realized in all its gruesome, snarling, exhilerating glory like it is right here.
All told, I don't know how quick I'd recommend the record. I don't want to put it out there as some sort of retarded masochistic noise endurance test, but I also wouldn't want anyone thinking there's more to it than a full-on face-wrecking atom bomb slugfest. If you've got ears, "Both Noises End Burning" is a landmark worth experiencing, if not enjoyed, at least once. You might not love it, but I can't see how anyone could hate something delivered with such unabashed honesty and conviction, which to me is what really hits home about, indeed, the whole shebang. Besides the whole head-exploding, heart-imploding, soul-obliterating, synapse-blowing, colon-erupting noise thing.
Click here to listen to MP3 samples from the above album