Black Leather Jesus normally toys with long-form soundscapes; they’re more interested in forming heavy slabs of noise instead of quick bursts. For a five minute disc, one would think that BLJ would make a track that encompasses the entire span of the release. In a surprising turn of events, though, the group has put together three very short tracks for this biz CD-R.
The first on the disc, “Dames Are For Pussies”, is a short grindcore-like burst of sound. It’s only 50 seconds in length, but it builds a huge wall of noise that Black Leather Jesus is known for, and when it fades out, it’s apparent that what we’ve heard is only a short blast of something much longer.
Then Gloryhole Anonymous moves on to “Ass Up”. These short pieces all seem gleaned from the same recording session – they have that encompassing mass of sound in the background – but they are also defined by the subtle changes in the forefront of the tracks. In “Ass Up”, there is a lot of feedback shifting that distinguishes it from the others. And finally, the ending “Trusting Rod and His Loving Thrusts” gives us a similar sound but with some moans or yelps in the background. The shifting feedback, the crumbling sounds of the static, and a whitewashing tide of bass, along with what sounds like the quick use of either a sample or synth track, bring Gloryhole Anonymous together for a great five minute excursion of sound. A great experiment from BLJ.
Here’s a longish split from two harsh noise projects – one is the very well-known group Black Leather Jesus with its revolving door of players, and the other is Creation Through Destruction, a harsh noise moniker of Dr. Alex from Dead Body Collection. There are four tracks on this split, two nearly 20 minute pieces from both parties, for a huge smattering of not-quite harsh noise wall soundscapes.
First up are the two tracks from Creation Through Destruction. These are highly fluctuating pieces; both “Uncertainty Principle” and “Stellar Magnetic Field” are all over the gamut of harsh noise, from whooshes of static and huge bass-driven vignettes with lots of static, some feedback, and other searing qualities. These are fun to listen to in the moment because they are so different from the principles of harsh noise wall; the sounds could be contained within a wall, but they move throughout different places on each recording so much that they become more like efforts to contain sounds that are bursting forth. The problem, however, is that Creation Through Destruction tends to shift so much that neither track becomes a memorable experience. I wouldn’t be able to pick one from the other because, by the time the 15 minutes of each track are up, I’ve forgotten where it began and where the artist has taken us. Too much variety can do that, and it’s interesting that this plagues Dr. Alex in Creation Through Destruction because his other work in Dead Body Collection is so immobile.
The Black Leather Jesus side is what you might expect from the group. There’s a huge mass of sound on “Stall Exhibitionists” using static and bass, and while this maintains its rigidity, small tendrils of sound escape the clutches – beeps and glitches, some light feedback manipulations – that hold the whole track together as a whole. “Bearfighter” works much the same way, where the collective establishes a baseline – this time crunchy static that judders and flits around rhythmically – while the remaining electronics focus on the underlying textures to give more detail to a heavily-structured wall. This is a technique Black Leather Jesus does well, and while these tracks aren’t surprising, they are still great to listen to.
This split is a fine album, though it’s not as good as the two artists’ pedigrees might indicate. Creation Through Destruction’s side left me less than enamored while the BLJ side is classic but unevolving. The collaboration here also feels strange; the two are tackling separate and inequivalent ideas on this split, and it’s probably not the best use of either of their material.
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.