Brain Melters 006: Lucas Abela

Broken Glass + Face = Music.

Nat Roe

As chaotic as noise music is sonically, it's often produced by intellectual knob twists. I love it all, but noise can be really dry in a live setting. In addition to being a wonderful recording artist, Lucas Abela (aka Justice Yeldham) is probably noise's best live show. In fact, the Australian is currently fundraising to press a new 12" picture disk, and pledging a few bucks on Pozible reserves you a copy.

Lucas plays broken glass with his face. The vibrations produced as he hums and hisses into a pane are amplified with a contact microphone and manipulated heavily with a slew of effects pedals. Contact mics are one a noise artist's most useful tools. They pick up vibrations from direct touch with a solid object rather than sound waves transmitted through the air. Before discovering his glass routine, Lucas Abela had attached a series of contact mics to a trampoline; as he would bounce around, he would warp the sound with effects pedals strapped to a belt around his waist. I've seen other noise artists stick contact mics to chains, shopping carts, guitars, welded metal sculptures - any solid object can become an instrument by attaching a contact mic. Lucas first played glass in 2003 and was surprised by the object's incredible musical possibilities. The two have been married ever since. By stressing different parts of the glass with his hands, just as one might fret a guitar string, Lucas can change the pitch and texture of the glass. And because the glass is clear, the audience can see in detail how Lucas' slight mouth movements affect the subtle changes in sound.

Of course, the glass is also a visually gruesome analogy to music. Lucas bites pieces off the glass over the course of his sets and usually finishes things by smashing the pane over his head. He does bleed, but not on purpose. Lucas claims he doesn't even notice when he nicks himself on a sharp edge in the middle of improvising. To be clear on this point, the music does come first over the gory gimmick.

Living in Melbourne, Australia, Lucas Abela runs the record label and pressing plant Dual Plover, through which he's put out a ton of weird and amazing Australian music over the years. Despite the masochistic live set, Lucas is a sweetheart and a true gentleman. Years ago, I went dancing with Lucas at a bar in Seoul with a sand dance floor. After a few ditzy looking girls came in, Lucas yelled, "The hot bitches have arrived!" The DJ spun "Groove is in the Heart" and I saw Dee Lite's most eccentric fan rip it up barefoot with the ladies on the dance floor. In context, that was much weirder for me to see than his live shows.