It’s not that often that you hear a performer ask the sound guy for “more face”, but Lucas Abela – aka ‘sound artist’ Justice Yeldham - didn’t really have much in the way of choice when I witnessed his set at last weekend’s Incubate festival in Tilburg, Holland. The Australian has become something of a hero of mine since catching him at the Supersonic fest last year (see clip below), and um, well you may think he’s an idiot, but he’s unquestionably unique.
Basically the guy plays an amplified, distorted pane of sugar glass, which he breathes on, slobbers over and bites chunks out of. It’s kind of incredible, a very strange noise that can sound like a barrage of horns one minute, a dirty riff the next, and, um, let’s be honest, quite a painful screeching sound about half the time.
But it’s got a groove of sorts, and is way more dynamic than such a strange instrument should be – it’s not so very far away from a sort of freakishly extreme form of beatboxing. Of course, the spectacle is what it’s all about – quite aside from the fact that, you know, you’re watching a man licking a piece of glass and generating louder noises than the complete works of Sabbath, Abela also ends sets bleeding quite profusely, as sugar or no, biting glass rips the shit out of your mouth. It’s perhaps no wonder that he describes himself as ‘crossing the line between music and bloodsport’.
Okay, it’s kind of a freak show, and you’d have to be made from sterner stuff that this blog to actually listen to his music at home (check out his Myspace if you’re feeling brave), but live it’s a chaotic thrill, one that’ll keep you teetering on the edge. Basically he plays an amped-up window so that you don’t have to, but hopefully it’ll make you think twice before you accuse some moody guy with a guitar of ‘showmanship’.