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Justice Yeldham | Picture Disc | LP | Dry Lung Records/dualplover | Austria/Australia | 2012


grind to death: review

It seems odd that Noise, an artform so unwaveringly committed to pushing musical boundaries, can now be seen as having its own standards and conventions, but a cursory glance at the current Noise scene reveals all manner of well-meaning young men who’ve nevertheless settled into an entirely comfortable lineage of abstract knob twiddling. Justice Yeldham (otherwise known by the name Lucas Abela) is an Australian artist who seems determined to resist the slide into complacency, constantly redefining his practice with new and inventive methods with which to produce Noise. The Vinyl Rally, his spectacularly elaborate large-scale art installation, is but one of these ingenious and joyously participatory ideas, but his solo live performances are perhaps what Justice has become most known for.

Armed with only a sheet of glass, a small contact mic and a modest selection of effects pedals, Justice blows into the unorthodox transparent instrument and plays it like some kind of bastardized trumpet. With the delicate nature of the glass shard frequently resulting in cavalcades of gore and injury, Yeldham’s shows are pretty much the antithesis of those Noise gigs where you’re treated to the sight of a dimly lit figure hunched over a laptop for just over an hour. Not that there’s anything wrong with such an approach of course, but given the ludicrously extravagant past exploits of groups like Hanatarashi, it’s heartening to see someone combining the hostility of Noise with the confrontational spectacle of performance art once again.

The vibrations produced are blisteringly harsh, but Yeldham doesn't seem to aim to sustain or elongate these brutal textures into walls of sound à la many of his contemporaries. Rather, the sound constantly stabs and harasses the listener, never sitting still long enough to zone you out, and teetering on the brink of collapse the entire time. It’s a technique that’s as gratingly provocative as it is jarringly enjoyable, creating a frantic and endlessly shifting sonic landscape. Sometimes, you’ll lose sight of the fact that these sounds are being produced by one man breathing heavily onto glass, only to have this wonderfully absurd truth be instantly illuminated as the muted sound of an exhaling human shoots across like the din like a sudden gust of wind.

This EP consists of one live recording and three previously unheard studio efforts and if anything, the studio material on offer somehow sounds even more energetic than the live track! ‘Buzzies’ is a mischievously atonal mini-cacophony, whilst ‘Black Knight Cleans Bright’ manages to sound simultaneously threatening and playful as Yeldham’s rhythmic raspberries dance through the static with a childlike elegance. ‘March of the Bodypumpers’ toys with both guttural throat excavations and punitive falsettos delivered in split second segments, relishing in the different sounds these vocalisations produce as they fracture across the transparent surface they’re projected onto.

Yeldham’s work is ostensibly an audio-visual experience, and is best enjoyed as such; and yet, even without the sight of his face contorting behind his makeshift glass instrument, the sounds Justice produces are still uncomfortably engaging and decidedly visceral. Whilst this EP can hardly be considered an adequate substitute for witnessing Yeldham’s performance in the flesh, taken on its own terms it’s a worthy introduction to one of the world’s most ingenious contemporary Noise artists. After selling the last remaining copies of the picture disc at this year’s Supersonic Festival, Justice has since made this EP available as a free download, so if you’re partial to a nice bit of Noise there’s no excuse not to hear this – and make sure you keep your eyes peeled for the next time Yeldham rolls through your neighbourhood!