lowly australian label mogel who exploits pissant artists inorder to live the extravegent lifestyle i've become acustomed to.
» VIEW BLOG lucasabela's Blog
lucasabela on 04/02/2009 at 03:29AM
Amongst the huge music geeks I know, only a very few have developed a taste for noise. It’s a bit puzzling, since you'd expect that over a half-century, noisicians could have popularized some basic semantics through sublimation if nothing else. Sometimes I wonder whether noise is at risk of extinction. Enter Lucas Abela, an outlier in noise history for creating a window (no pun intended) into noise love for uninitiates as much as vets.
Under the Justice Yeldham moniker, Abela is most infamous for playing panes of broken glass with his mouth. The sheet is amplified by a contact microphone which picks up the vibrations of his lips against the surface. This signal is manipulated further by a slew of pedals. For his quarter hour show, Abela grunts, squelches, hisses and farts with face pressed to pane as he gradually destroys the instrument. Afterwards, scattered glass, spit and blood cover the floor.
Abela has attracted global attention and, from my experience, has made noise's esoteric content more accessible. "One of the most important things when I play," he tells me, "is that you can see the relationship between my actions and the resulting sounds. This is something that's been missing in a lot of contemporary music practice, whether it be lap-toppers or platinum selling singers." With one multifaceted device, Abela offers a compelling physical analogy to his music.
Abela began as an experimental "turntablist", destroying records on high-speed industrial motors with unconventional styli. He met some success here, in particular through a questionable Otomo Yoshihide remix which Yoshihide himself admired. The always-ahead Bananafish requested a very early '97 interview after Abela's first release, A Kombi – Music to Drive-by, a recording of his old VW van's death shudders amplified through its shoddily grounded stereo.
Over the years Abela has amplified sword fights, sucked on amplified metal skewers, performed while bouncing on an electroacoustic trampoline and played amplified dick piercings by touching his collaborative "partner" to complete their circuit. Then at one concert in 2003, he saw a pane of glass in a corner and thought he should play it. "When I first noticed the sheet, it was instinctual to pick it up and try it out."
After his initial discovery, he began to focus on the glass exclusively, touring the show extensively across the globe. Over the years he has come up with a myriad of glass playing techniques which have seen this noise instrument become more and more musical. To show off this aspect, he has decided to form his first 'real' band while living in Beijing. The band, Rice屎Corpse, (which comes from the literal translation of 屎, the Chinese character for shit) with Yang Yang on drums and Li Zenghui on piano, have already recorded the album 'Mountain' and at the time of writing are conducting a 10 city tour of China.
Abela also co-runs Dual Plover records, which he founded in 1995 and funds by cheaply mass-producing CDs for other labels. Dual Plover primarily features fellow Australian artists such as Naked on the Vague, Toxic Lipstick and the mysterious Volvox, but also includes a few international submissions as well, most notably from Deerhoof, Merzbow and Kevin Blechdom.
Although Abela's breakthroughs can be revelatory for the less-than-enthused with noise, his translations can be a double-edged sword. He often has to combat a reputation as the avant-garde's freak show. "Early on at a show in Belgium someone described my set as being like GG Allin, an artist I personally feel no affinity with, he’s all shock tactics without any real content. Basically a really bad rock band with a lunatic as a singer. I'm not interested in such infamy. It would be all too easy to play the psychotic sadomasochist role with what I do, but that's not me."
Abela does often bleed heavily from cuts on his mouth, not to mention from smashing the pane against his forehead and biting off shards with his teeth. I sat next to an audience member who got cut pretty badly from flying glass as the rest of the spectators stared with wide eyes and slack jaws, cringing as Abela slid his lip against a sharp edge.
But anyone will admit they saw a lot more than gore. As violently intense as Yeldham's act can get, he isn't above the classic Kindergarten silly-face on glass with farting sounds to match. This is one of the stranger audience reactions - looks of horror followed immediately by laughter. Moreover, as improvised noise is often sloppy and uncontrolled, it was surprising to see what precise and varied sounds Yeldham produces by pressuring different areas of the glass and manipulating his pedals. It's in these varying textures, Abela insists, that his primary interests lie.
"If you listen, you should be able to hear a vast range of sounds which I'm able to conjure from just a random piece of broken glass. That should create enough wonder in people without the blood and saliva, but people always tend to focus on that. Glass is the most perfect material I had ever come across on various levels, most especially aurally. Not only does it sound unique, it's also very warm and responsive to my nuanced vocal techniques. Visually, it's humorous and powerful all at once and psychologically it strikes nerves within people, making it a wonderful three-pronged attack on the audience's senses.
"Abela also insists that his music is not violent and that contrary to popular belief never screams into the glass or purposefully cuts himself. The energy is the same kind you would expect from a high-flying guitar or saxophone solo. "I prefer a live delivery every time. I may not have the range of sounds a lap-topper can achieve but I enjoy my limitations and personally think it's more liberating to create music organically with such limitations and a finite amount of possibilities than to have to choose between infinite musical decisions on a sterile platform.
"The nonchalant origins of the act proved typical of Abela as I got to know him a little better. It's difficult to speak at length about Abela's music because he tends to avoid waxing philosophical. It's as if any high-reaching claim about his music would evoke an "uhhhh...well, it's not really that complicated. I just get up there and play." Abela's nonchalance sometimes comes out in hilarious ways. I've never seen anyone jump up as quickly as Abela to dance to Dee Lite at a party. Even better is that he knows all the words to Britney Spears' Toxic.
As intense as Abela's performances can get, he maintains an unpretentious stage presence, determined to prove his normalcy. If the audience were expecting a psychopath to back up the legends, it found something unexpectedly normal. Abela combats the gore and horror of his act with an attitude saying, "don't get too worked up, it's really not that strange.”
by Nathaniel Roe
Signal to Noise,issue #53 | spring 2009
lucasabela on 03/30/2009 at 09:25AM
What kind of government would send a lunatic artist, whose idea of self expression is smashing amplified glass against his face, off to China to become a cultural ambassador? Australia the lucky country of coarse! And that’s’ exactly what happened to Lucas Abela (Justice Yeldham) and this album, Mrs Rice is it’s result. With under two months in Beijing he formed the pick up band Rice屎Corpse, (named after the Chinese character for shit, 屎 which itself is the combination of two characters "尸" corpse and "米" rice), jammed with them four times (two off which were recorded for this album) before heading off for a ten city tour of China.
A Trio of glass, drums and piano was in Lucas’s minds ear when he arrived and two completely different musicians came forward to form this unlikely band. First to be recruited for drums was Yang Yang whose antics in his own band Mafeisan has given him the reputation of being the craziest exponent of the normally conservative Beijing scene. His ultra loud out and proud personality is in stark contrast to the mild mannered and brutally shy saxophonist Li Zenghui who came to the project as pianist, cause simply put there were no suitable pianists in the city.
Existing for a limited time and without a common language to interrupt they managed to create these six varied and strangely focused improvisations. This despondent attempt at musicality is by far Abela’s most accessible work to date as the addition of Yang and Li’s stabbing rhythm section forced the seasoned noisician to take his glass instrument into surprising new directions. Released on conjunction with SUBJAM and made possible with the kind assistance of Asialink and the Australia Council for the Arts.