Black Leather Jesus: Smacked Red

Black Leather Jesus: Smacked Red
Steinklang (2011)

Harsh Wall Noise. The phrase itself is kind of non-sensical, like, how does a wall make noise? Oh……you mean walls of noise. People who love this niche tend to be very rigid about their opinions in forums and blogs, showing an inability to appreciate anything but Harsh Wall Noise in a way similar to crusty old metal heads who cant get over Metallica’s Master of Puppets (I frikkin’ love that record by the way).

Black Leather Jesus is one of many side projects helmed by Richard Ramirez who is himself an interesting proposition within this scene. Serial killer references aside he’s oft considered an early pioneer of America’s noise scene, fully committed to the DIY ethics of the genre’s earliest incarnations. He stands out for his commitment to subverting the noise scene’s tropes by replacing common horror related aesthetics with violent, queer S&M imagery. No fluffy handcuffs here people. He also runs his own fashion label called Richard Saenz.

So, what about Smacked Red? Well, in my mind the possibilities for noise are endless. Noise can’t have rules, because it’s very essence comes from existing outside the constraints of ‘music’. Anything can be noise. However on Smacked Red Black Leather Jesus have rejected these possibilities for five tracks of straight up mountains of well, noise. Sheer, barely climbable cliff faces of noise.

There are few variations in tone or dynamics and for me it’s all a bit…..meh. I’ve heard lots of records like this. Ten years ago it may have sounded subversive but today it sounds like a lot of other noise records out there. That said, you can hear that Smacked Red has been created by a bunch of experienced noise nerds (Ramirez collaborates with a rotating cast of terrorists under the Black Leather Jesus alias) – these walls are layered with feedback, digital scramble and decay in a way that every other bedroom noise-nik would unlikely manage. Track five, Explode a Load (lovely title!), is the standout for me with its powerful bottom end. However, if like me you’re looking for new realms in sound this is probably not the place to search for it. Fans of Ramirez and his oeuvre will likely love it.

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