Richard Ramirez/Black Leather Jesus – Scrapyard (CD, Phage Tapes/R.O.N.F Records)

 

Scrapyard was originally released in 1995 with a limited run on vinyl, and as has been the custom for much of BlackLeather Jesus’ earlier work, the album has been re-released on Phage Tapes with a more attainable number. The disc features all three of the original tracks, with two cuts from Ramirez and one longer track from the ensemble Black Leather Jesus. There’s also an additional, new track from Ramirez, which adds a bit extra for those who already own the original.
 
The Richard Ramirez tracks are extremely recognizable, certainly reminiscent of his early work in harsh noise. “The Collapse of an Industry Long Forgotten” is mostly cut-up work, scrap electronics writhing together, with shards of static and twirls of feedback oscillating together. Occasional rhythms stay for only a minute before Ramirez tweaks the sound, and there’s a more chaotic approach to his early work here; it’s also quite a bit less refined than later projects, even in the setup, which seems very minimal here. Overall, the first tracks pretty standard harsh noise fare, with much of the shifts being subtle knob tweaks or static shudders that trade back and forth between feedback bursts.
 
“Male Nudity Among American Wreckage” is similar in style to the previous track, but it’s a bit more structured, keeping defined tones longer than its predecessor for a less-varied but more rewarding track. Ramirez keeps some of the churning static longer, adds an incessant beeping sound, and even moves the noise amongst different speakers, making this an experiment that finds Ramirez capturing a more dynamic sound. It’s still very jumpy, but it manage to return to the same themes throughout. There’s even some interesting vocal sample work, decomposed and twisted into small bits of repeated bursts. It seems a prelude to the porn samples Ramirez uses on the new recording on this disc.
 
Black Leather Jesus get one track on the disc, the longest-running “Human Connection (An Obscene Turn of Events)”. If you know the noise act, you know their sound often combines industrial scrap sounds with harsh noise, and this track is no different. The sound seems a little pared back, with a rumbly bass filling the void while screams, electronics, and even some guitar-like fiddling progress in front. There’s a lot going on during the track, and that’s thanks to the myriad members that make up the project; each gets a substantial role here, and the twenty minutes of the track are nearly filled with different sounds throughout.
 
And finally, there’s the new addition to Scrapyard from Ramirez titled “Just Like Me”. Like Ramirez’s newer solo stuff, the track begins with a lengthy gay porn sample; although that is the end of the explicit content, if you’re not comfortable with that kind of thing (for any reason), I would suggest staying away from this track, and especially at work, since it does get pretty dirty. Nevertheless, the track has the best mastery on the album,and it’s also the most original piece. Ramirez uses his background in walls to create a subtly moving piece of harsh noise that really emphasizes cut-up sound; the bulk of the track has a real junk metal sound to it, with the electronics used sounding like they were heavily deconstructed and recorded through a terribly scratchy contact mic. With that said, it’s an excellent piece of noise, and it’s so interesting to compare the changes in Ramirez’s sound and note the growth of this remarkable artist.
 
But while the last track on this split is spot-on, that doesn’t make Scrapyard enough to recommend to those who already have the original LP. To be honest, the original tracks are only sub-par from both artists; I would recommend, however, for those who haven’t heard this to pick up the new edition.

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