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! 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 Corpse, (named after the Chinese character for shit, which itself is the combination of the two characters for corpse and 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.
01 mountain 6:39
02 stamp on my balls 13:21
03 desktop frog 6:43
04 resurrection men 10:22
05 peking duck 2:24
06 mrs rice 12:07
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|MESS & NOISE|
"For a lot of noise musicians, showmanship is often limited to a mild flailing of the body while they hover over an array of equipment and leads. Sydney’s Lucas Abela opts instead for cutting his face to pieces with treated plate glass – breathing, sighing and yelling into the mic’ed up glass until it breaks into shards, often taking portions of his face with it. Under the name Justice Yeldham, Abela has brutalised a few households worth of window pane for years now, but his recorded material has rarely excited attention among the uninitiated masses, who generally appreciate the spectacle first and the sonics second, if at all.
Rice屎Corpse is Abela’s improvised collaboration with two Chinese artists – Yang Yang of Mafeisan on drums and saxophonist-cum-pianist Li Zenghui. For anyone fascinated by Abela’s means but intimidated by its end, Mrs Rice is an accessible place to start. It’s noise rock, and while no less compromising in execution the presence of a rhythmic and melodic backbone breathes a welcoming “rock” dynamic into Abela’s mulched, overdriven glasswork. His foreign sonic vocabulary is translated here into a musical language most listeners can decipher.
When playing off the two-piece ensemble, which switches between foreboding menace and full throttle freak out, Abela’s vocals are given the opportunity to display a surprising myriad of range – whether it be the eerie wavering foghorn drones halfway through ‘Stamp on My Balls’, the subtle static malfunction of ‘Desktop Frog’, or the garish rhythmic hopscotch showcased during ‘Peking Duck’. Abela responds deftly to Zenghui’s keys, which often heave violently out of sparse melodic noodling into hammer-happy free jazz expressiveness. Yang Yang’s eagerness to give his whole kit a solid thrashing at every given opportunity means Rice屎Corpse rarely climb out of their rigid soft/loud MO, but the jarring transitions rarely prove predictable or tiring.
Which seems somewhat integral to Mrs Rice anyway. It’s a joyously gratuitous album, equally hilarious and punishing, maniacal and narcoleptic. Maximum volume is recommended to appreciate the catharsis at the heart of Rice屎Corpse, especially for those likely to glaze over the more challenging aspects of the record. Don’t be mislead: this is still a rough-as-guts ride, but hopefully Mrs Rice is evidence enough to sceptics that Justice Yeldham is much more than just a bloodstained showman." - Shaun Prescott
"Just when you thought that all trios of improvising musicians were just pretentious excuses to plink plonk and masturbate their way through the pretense that somehow the discordant mess they produce is actually a meaningful new direction in modern music for people who haven’t been schooled for 5+ years in modern composition and learned to hate music, along comes Rice Corpse.
It’s the work of Sydney based lunatic glass blower and noise extraordinare Lucas Abela, who if the press release is to be believed briefly became a cultural ambassador to China, spending two months in Beijing found pianist Li Zenghui (who is actually a saxophonist) and percussionist Yang Yang, jammed with them a few times and then dragged them into the studio for this monstrosity. It’s the funniest most visceral and compelling music this writer has heard for a very long time. At times Abela feels like he’s sabotaging the aforementioned plink plonk, tearing it apart with his aggressive howls, other times he sounds like some kind of wounded inhuman animal growling irritably whilst the piano and percussion rain down around him, then there’s the moment where it all coalesces into the adolescent noise frenzy that is spirited and unrelenting, a charging jam that you could only imagine as the sound of the apocalypse. Perhaps what I find most fascinating about Rice Corpse is how the trio don’t sound tied down to any particular form of improvisation as is so commonly the case. This may be because Abela’s contact mic’d glass through distortion pedals produces such a unique, and I would imagine quite difficult to play along with, sound, but really I believe it has a lot to do with the musicians desire to pull something quite unique out of the box. At times it’s quite musical, even positively melodic, at other times the humour comes from the ludicrous ill fitting nature of this trio, yet then it all becomes quite hysterical, pushing you to face head on, the joy, freedom and possibilities of experimental music – rubbing your face in it over and over again, until you just want to be left alone. Genius." - BobBakerFish
"Lucas Abela has been exploring noise performance using a variety of self-constructed instruments for over a decade. Since 2003 Abela’s instrument of choice has been a sheet of glass, which he plays by humming, squealing and raspberry-blowing against it, the miked signal subsequently fed through a utility belt of effects pedals. The performance is spectacular and concludes when he smashes the glass over his head. Showmanship aside, the sounds Abela elicits in his improvised onslaughts are often extraordinary.
After touring extensively across Asia and Europe as a solo artist, Abela has settled on China as the home for his latest project—a band. Rice屎Corpse sees him join with experimental rock drummer Yang Yang and improvising saxophonist Li Zenghui trying his hand at piano. After four rehearsals and minimal language-based communication, the trio made a recording and went on a tour of China (courtesy of an AsiaLink residency). The resulting six track CD, Mrs Rice, is co-released by Abela’s Dual Plover label and Kwanyin, the sub-label of SubJam, run by artist and promoter Yan Jun.
Abela admits that this CD sounds nothing like anything he’s done before and he’s right. The use of piano and drums lend many of the tracks what could be described as a more accessible melodic and rhythmic drive than we have come to expect. This is established immediately in "Mountain", where almost genteel piano notes are met by subtle under rumbles from Abela. These notes quickly develop into discordant jabs and a rocking drum section kicks in establishing a chunky middle section in which Abela takes a lead break squealing the track to a new intensity. It’s a catchy and romping jazz-fusion piece that you could actually dance to if you were so inclined.
This comfortable zone is immediately undermined by "Stamp on my balls." Discarding tight cohesion, it reveals the artists on exploratory journeys with occasional collisions. Abela purrs and sucks, the piano skitters, there are sudden drum punctums along with distant howls and caterwauls in Mandarin. This is call and response—the artists getting to know each other musically, offering and borrowing, creating a spacious piece that shifts through a variety of dynamics.
In "Desktop Frog" there's a collective launch: a brittle scattering of drums, washes of piano notes and growing undulations on glass creating the effect of bad weather approaching. Abela takes over, producing tones akin to organ notes but with a metallic edge, wailing and moaning, until a four beat drum count down introduces splatter hysteria.
Several of the tracks are tangibly gothic, a mood amplified by the morbid newspaper story reproduced on the sleeve about Mrs Rice, a woman from Bristol in a past non-specified, whose body was disinterred for its organs not once but twice. The title of track 4, "Resurrection Men", is taken from the same article and its pounding piano progressions, primal drum rolls and the mounting intensity of Abela’s freeform swirls certainly suggest the Boogie Man is coming to take us away...This track is wild and expansive and yet completely integrated. My personal favourite.
"Peking Duck" could be called a song. Abela sings along, matching piano and drums note for note, sounding like Rolf Harris’ wobble board crossed with a duck. It’s a short pounding track showing yet another kind of conversation between the artists.
It’s hard not to read the gruesome body snatchers narrative into the final track "Mrs Rice." Low piano notes and wide handspan chords offer a silent film ambience, while Abela creates low burblings and deathly moans. Yang Yang's drums come to the fore with sporadic bass drum thumps like hands banging on a coffin, accompanied by cymbal skitterings and the track ends, again, in an all out squall.
As a whole Mrs Rice is a fascinating experience. It certainly has its moments of noise assault but the dynamics between and within the tracks are testament to the improvisatory skills of the artists, and a sense that they are seeking new territories. The persistence of Zenghui’s piano stabbing and jabbing wears thin by the end, and I feel that Yang Yang’s drums often get lost in the mix with the recording muddied every now and then by total overdrive. What is most interesting about Mrs Rice is the intense cohesiveness of the ensemble and the range of explorations encapsulated on the six tracks. Doubtful he'll be able to bring the Chinese artists to tour, Lucas Abela is in the process of exploring a similar band format in Australia." - Gail Priest.
"Mrs Rice is the sonic clunking and noisy improv meeting of Australian Glass eater, manic ranter and noise maker Lucas Abela with Chinese Pianist Li Zenghui(who normally plays Sax) and percussionist Yang Yang.
The album features six tracks which fall between two to twelve minute mark a picec; with each track being a demented and often violently da-da collusion of hammered to jaggedly tinkled piano abuse, amped up vocal bellows, whines, mad-man chatters and out breaths, Chocking feed-back clouds, the odd battering of drums and general manic cluttering and improv. The first few tracks really bang into you in a sadistic rewarding manner giving one the feeling of manic glee and violent merriment- this is playful, bloody, face smashing and finger pulping noise improv that attacks you with rabid vigor. The problem comes with later tracks, when the trio seem to replay the same sonic terror tactics over and over again; you see this sort of thing should be short and sharp leaving you breathless and shaken. But instead by track four or five youfve become a little jaded and slightly bored; as therefs no real shift in pace, sound or attack- it just keeps hammering and hammering into you.
Certainly an interesting and violent take on improv with the three piece being an original and rabid pairing; itfs just a pity it couldnft have been shorter and shaper with the three piece adding more dramatic and varied shifts into their sound and attack." - Roger Batty