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sound/music CD reviews

 Da Contents H2

May 1 2013
Jon Rose

April 3 2013
zephyr quartet
a rain from the shadows

July 17 2012
the wired lab
wired open day 2009

May 22 2012
ros bandt, johannes s sistermanns

March 20 2012
new weird australia editions: thomas williams vs scissor lock, spartak
jewelz & nippon

October 25 2011
avantwhatever label collection
gulbenkoglu gorfinkel; ben byrne; alex white; ivan lysiak

May 24 2011
disintegration: mutation

May 10 2011
blip (jim denley, mike majkowksi)

listen to the weather

March 22 2011
difference engine

November 22 2010
artefacts of australian experimental music volume II 1974-1983

September 20 2010
clocked out
the wide alley

September 7 2010
clocked out
foreign objects

August 23 2010
matt chaumont

July 26 2010
sky needle
time hammer

May 10 2010
mike majkowski
ink on paper

November 6 2009
new weird australia vols 1 & 2

October 26 2009
clare cooper & chris abrahams
germ studies

July 17 2009
erdem helvacioglu
wounded breath

rice corpse
mrs rice

April 28 2009
james rushford

joel stern
objects, masks, props

January 22 2009
loren chasse
the footpath

mark cauvin

December 12 2007
the splinter orchestra

October 24 2007
artefacts of australian experimental music 1930-1973

August 28 2007
akathistos fragments


various artists produced by le tuan hung; dindy vaughan
on the wings of a butterfly: cross-cultural music by australian composers; up the creek

May 1 2006
ai yamamoto

camilla hannan
more songs about factories

found: quantity of sheep

philip brophy

rod cooper

December 1 2005
anthony pateras
mutant theatre

December 1 2005
charlie charlie & will guthrie
la respiration des saintes & building blocks

dj olive

new belief system

jodi rose & guest artists
singing bridges: vibrations/variations

lawrence english

lawrence english
ghost towns

michael j schumacher
room pieces

robin fox
backscatter dvd


the necks
mosquito/see through

tim o'dwyer
multiple repeat

guns, cars & guitars

warp: various artists
warp vision: the videos 1989-2004

zane trow
for those who hear actual voices


rice corpse

mrs rice

Dual Plover/Kwanyin-Sub Jam 029, 2009,

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

See article on the making of Mrs Rice

See a full interview with Lucas Abela

© Gail Priest; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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