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Limbo District, 'Encased'

Limbo District has always felt like a myth hidden in plain sight. In the early '80s, the band delighted and terrified Athens, Ga., with its provocative avant-garde post-punk performance art. Limbo District's roster fluctuated with Southern bohemians — plus a French exchange student — but its most visible member was drummer Jerry Ayers, who co-wrote The B-52s' "52 Girls" and R.E.M.'s "Old Man Kensey" and was part of Andy Warhol's Factory. Ask anyone from that Athens era and they speak of Limbo District as a Vaudevillian unicorn.

But the group's only known recordings were featured in Carnival, a short film by Jim Herbert — snippets were featured in the Athens, GA: Inside/Out documentary. And, as time has gone by, memories and information about the band have faded — members have died or their whereabouts are unknown — leaving those still curious to follow trails of poor YouTube rips and brief mentions in Grace Elizabeth Hale's book Cool Town.

But thanks to art director, producer and archivist Henry Owings, Limbo District lives again. "Encased" is the first of a few known studio sessions that will surface over the year. "It's like finding Joy Division 40 years later in tape boxes," Owings tells me. There is a back-to-basics vibe very much line with what was happening in Athens at the time, but where The B-52s played up the party and Oh-OK brought New Wave to the doo-wop, Limbo District reverse-engineered punk's primitive roots to piece together a circus-like surrealism. On "Encased," the parts are easy to identify — howled vocals, thwacked drums, droning organ, spindly guitar, menacingly grooved bass — but the song seems to be in a state of constant spontaneous combustion.

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Lars Gotrich
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