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Noise rock (also known as noise punk) describes a style of post-punk rock music that became prominent in the 1980s. Noise rock makes use of the traditional instrumentation and iconography of rock, but incorporates atonality and especially dissonance, and also frequently discards usual songwriting conventions.

Style

Noise Rock is a term that has been used to encompass a wide range of bands which favour dissonance, wild feedback and extreme distortion in the context of Rock music. Noise Rock is an outgrowth of punk rock, while the style was predicted by such 1960s Proto-Punk bands as the The Velvet Underground, Monks and The Godz, Noise Rock came into its own in the 1980s. Cult musician Thurston Moore has said that

Visual and conceptual elements

Many noise rock groups have a confrontational performance style which mirrors the aggression of their music. This reaches back to The Who and Jimi Hendrix, who were famous for destroying their instruments on stage, and Iggy Pop, of the Stooges, and Darby Crash, of the Germs, who lacerated their bodies in a spectacle comparable to the performance art of Chris Burden and Vito Acconci. Acconci was also a significant inspiration for no wave. Some performers, such as Black Flag and the Birthday Party, for example, also physically assaulted audience members, on occasion.

1980s noise rock musicians tended to adopt a Spartan, utilitarian mode of dress following the hardcore punk ethos and in partial reaction against the more ostentatious elements of punk fashion. Steve Albini articulated an ethical stance that emphasized restraint, irony, and self-sufficiency. The Butthole Surfers were an exception in their desire to dress as bizarrely as possible. Several bands also made public reference to drug use, particularly LSD (Jimi Hendrix, the Butthole Surfers) and heroin (the Velvet Underground, Royal Trux). Many contemporary noise rock musicians, such as the Locust and Lightning Bolt, have a very theatrical mode of presentation and wear costumes. Some bands incorporate visual displays, such as film or video art.

History

Precursors

The origins of noise rock are in the first rock musicians who explored extreme dissonance and electronic feedback. This begins with commercially successful figures like Jimi Hendrix, The Who, and Neil Young. Underground rock musicians such as the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, and the MC5 incorporated elements of free jazz and minimalism. More obscure musicians, such as the Monks, San Francisco's Fifty Foot Hose, and Japan's Les Rallizes Dénudés, also incorporated the effects of dissonance. The German groups described as Krautrock are significant influences on later noise rock, particularly Can and Faust. Lou Reed's 1975 album Metal Machine Music, which entirely eschewed song structure in favor of a minimalist wave of guitar feedback, also anticipated and influenced many later developments in noise rock. The classic punk rock groups (the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the Ramones) tended to avoid extreme dissonance, preferring a more traditional, straight-ahead approach to rock'n'roll. One exception was the L.A. punk group the Germs, who pursued punk rock with an amateurish, free-form tenacity. Subsequent post-punk groups delved much deeper into noise. Michigan band Destroy All Monsters are considered the founding fathers of noise rock.

1970s

The New York No Wave scene, featuring such artists as Mars and Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, which began to coalesce in 1978, was also an essential development in noise rock. While no wave included a variety of post-punk, experimental tendencies (different groups incorporated elements of free jazz, soul, and disco), the most abrasive groups would find their innovations streamlined into noise rock tradition. Chrome, from San Francisco, produced their own style of psychedelic punk, which shared some common ground with the No Wave groups.

The Scientists
Australian noise rock also developed in the late 1970s. The Birthday Party took a great deal of influence from rockabilly, and is also formative on the deathrock genre, while The Scientists anticipated grunge.

1980s

A number of noise rock bands emerged from many different scenes in North America in the 1980s. These included The Jesus Lizard and Big Black (Chicago), Butthole Surfers, Scratch Acid, (Texas), Black Flag (Los Angeles), The Melvins (Montesano, Washington), Sonic Youth,, Swans,, White Zombie , and Helmet (New York), Pixies and Dinosaur Jr (Boston), Fugazi, Pussy Galore and Royal Trux (Washington DC),Chop Shop (New York). among many others. These bands were initially referred to as "pigfuck" by Robert Christgau, in a reference to Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris, though the increasingly melodic tendencies of many of these groups quickly rendered the tag misleading. The Minneapolis label Amphetamine Reptile released a great deal of music in this tradition.

British noise rock included The Birthday Party (who had emigrated from Australia), This Heat, the Fall, Joy Division, Gang Of Four, Scritti Politti, The Pop Group, Swell Maps, and the Jesus and Mary Chain. Industrial groups (such as Throbbing Gristle) developed in parallel to, and sometimes in collaboration with, the noise rock groups.

The Birthday Party, Lydia Lunch, Diamanda Galás, and Foetus all expatriated to West Berlin in the early '80s, where they developed their own noise rock scene, along with the native German group Einstürzende Neubauten.

Many of these bands went on to temper the initial ferocity and amelodicism of their approach with an appreciation for rock history. Sonic Youth spoke highly of the Beatles, Pussy Galore covered the Rolling Stones, Black Flag drew inspiration from Black Sabbath, and the Butthole Surfers worked with John Paul Jones and emulated Jimi Hendrix. Nick Cave, the former singer of the Birthday Party, continued his work with noise rock, but also explored ballads and literate, complex songwriting in the tradition of Leonard Cohen.

Other noise rock groups strived to further distance themselves from rock tradition. Beginning in 1986, the British group Napalm Death created "grindcore" by melding the noise rock of Swans with hardcore punk and death metal. While later grindcore groups tended to move in the direction of death metal, American bands such as Anal Cunt continued in an extremely dissonant, freeform vein.

Melt Banana
A similar scene also began to develop in Osaka, Japan, spearheaded by Hanatarash and the Boredoms, who composed extremely short, fast "songs", marked by blasts of rhythm (reflecting an influence from grindcore), screaming, and overloaded guitars. Boredoms singer Yamantaka Eye also worked with the New York City jazzcore group Naked City. The Boredoms eventually evolved towards a far more meditative sound, taking inspiration from Krautrock. Gore Beyond Necropsy, Ground Zero, Zeni Geva, Guitar Wolf, and Melt-Banana extended the Japanese noise rock style. These bands also reflected the impact of the Japanoise scene pioneered by Merzbow.

The British shoegazing groups developed an entirely distinct form of noise rock. Taking equal inspiration from the dream pop groups, in addition to aggressive rock like the Jesus and Mary Chain, The Telescopes, and Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine produced a warm, feminine, but also dissonant, formless and psychedelic genre that belongs in the noise rock tradition.

Still other noise rock groups explored irregular time signatures and rhythmic experimentation. These groups came to be referred to as math rock. Post-hardcore, screamo, and some riot grrl groups also take influence from noise rock.

1990s

The '80s noise rock bands were significant influences on Nirvana and Hole, and as a result had some mainstream currency during the period when grunge was played on the radio. Nirvana's album In Utero is particularly evident in its debts to '80s noise rock, and was produced by Big Black frontman and noise rock icon Steve Albini. Industrial metal groups, such as Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, and White Zombie, were also indebted to noise rock.

Some east coast hardcore punk groups, such as Born Against, also took on associations with noise rock. The subsequent powerviolence scene was close to noise rock, with Man Is the Bastard eventually dissolving into unstructured noise music. .The Locust also picked up from Man Is The Bastard and created a synth-driven powerviolence sound.They have gone to a more noise drone on their latest album New Erections.Contemporaneous groups like Neurosis and Today Is the Day began to further blend noise rock with extreme metal. Much of the resulting innovations have been incorporated into the more experimental practitioners of metalcore, such as Converge, Botch, and Dillinger Escape Plan.

Beginning in the mid-90s, Providence became the center of a new crop of noise-rock bands, largely a product of the RISDmarker scene. These groups tended to owe less to traditional rock song structures, and were more minimal and drone-like. These included Lightning Bolt, Arab on Radar, Six Finger Satellite, Men's Recovery Project, and Pink and Brown. Black Dice were originally part of this scene, but moved to Brooklyn, where they aligned themselves with groups like Gang Gang Dance. As journalist Marc Masters puts it, these groups "trafficked in a kind of art school version of 90's scum rock, mixing in overloaded effects, damaged electronics, and gimmicks like masks and in-mouth mics." These groups were also related, in part, to the San Diego scene that emerged from screamo, most famously the Locust, and to Wolf Eyes, from Ann Arbor.

Noise rock also spread into the American South with bands such as the Ed Kemper Trio. Heavily influenced by the sound of SST and Touch and Go, EK3 was the focus of the 2004 documentary People Will Eat Anything.

Mike Patton is also an advocate of the noise rock scene, maintaining the label Ipecac.

2000s

After 2000, noise rock groups formed all over the world. These included Scarling., These Are Powers, The Death Set, Mclusky, Oneida, Parts and Labor, Fuck Buttons, Indian Jewelry, Neptune, TWMWK, Fiasco, Aa , Magik Markers, Mind Flayer, Part Chimp, Slicing Grandpa, Japanther, Ex Models, and Hella. In L.A., Liars (originally from NYC), No Age, Skeleteen, The Mae Shi and HEALTH practice the style. Pre, from London, The Intelligence, from Seattle, Dan Deacon, Animal Collective and Ponytail, from Baltimore, and Richmond, Virginia's Bermuda Triangles and Amoeba Men off the CNP Record label are also significant noise rockers.

Experimental luthier Yuri Landman has experimented with a variety of extended techniques, with instruments created for the benefit of numerous groups in the scene, including Sonic Youth, Lightning Bolt, Liars, and Jad Fair.

Related genres



Labels

The following is a list of record labels that specialize in noise rock.







References

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Bibliography

Álvarez-Fernández, Miguel (2005). Dissonance, Sex and Noise: (Re)Building (Hi)Stories of Electroacoustic Music. In ICMC 2005: Free Sound Conference Proceedings. Barcelona: International Computer Music Conference; International Computer Music Association; SuviSoft Oy Ltd.

Azzerad, Michael (2002). Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991. Back Bay Books. ISBN 0316787531

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Heylin, Clinton (1993). From the Velvets to the Voidoids: The Birth of American Punk Rock. ISBN 1556525753

Masters, Marc (2008). No Wave. Black Dog Publishing. ISBN 190615502X

McNeil, Legs and Gillian McCain (1997). Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk. Grove Press. ISBN 0802142648

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Reynolds, Simon (2006). Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984. Penguin. ISBN 0143036726.


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