Noise rock describes a style of rock music that became prominent in the 1980s.[1][2] Noise rock makes use of the traditional instrumentation and iconography of rock, but incorporatesatonality and especially dissonance, and also frequently discards usual songwriting conventions.[2][3]


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Noise rock is a genre of music descended from early avant-garde music and sound art.[2] Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore has said that

Noise has taken the place of punk rock. People who play noise have no real aspirations to being part of the mainstream culture. Punk has been co-opted, and this subterranean noise music and the avant-garde folk scene have replaced it.[1]

Visual and conceptual elements[edit]Edit

[1][2]Steve Albini

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,[4] and Iggy Pop, of the Stooges, and Darby Crash, of the Germs, who lacerated their bodies[5][6] in a spectacle comparable to the performance art of Chris Burdenand Vito Acconci.[4] Acconci was also a significant inspiration for no wave.[7] Some performers, such as Black Flag[8] and the Birthday Party,[9] 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 fashionSteve Albini articulated an ethical stance that emphasized restraint, irony, and self-sufficiency.[10] The Butthole Surfers were an exception in their desire to dress as bizarrely as possible.[11] Several bands also made public reference to drug use, particularly LSD (Jimi Hendrix, the Butthole Surfers[11]) and heroin (the Velvet UndergroundRoyal Trux[12]). Many contemporary noise rock musicians, such as the LocustComparative Anatomy, and Lightning Bolt, have a very theatrical mode of presentation and wear costumes.[1] Some bands incorporate visual displays, such as film or video art.[11]



The origins of noise rock are in the first rock musicians who explored extreme dissonance and electronic feedback. Examples of commercially successful figures include the Grateful DeadJimi Hendrix,[13] The Who,[14] and Neil Young.[15] Underground rock musicians such as the Stoogesthe Velvet Underground, and the MC5 incorporated elements of free jazz[4] and minimalism, notably The Velvet Underground's self-titled debut and their second album, White Light/White Heat, which incorporated free musicianship and drone sounds.[16] More obscure musicians, such as the Monks,[17] San Francisco's Fifty Foot Hose,[18] and Japan's Les Rallizes Dénudés,[19] also incorporated the effects of dissonance. The German groups described as Krautrock are significant influences on later noise rock, particularly Can and Faust.[1] 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.[20] Punk rock groups such as the Sex Pistolsthe 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. hardcore punk group the Germs, who pursued punk rock with an amateurish, free-form tenacity.[6]


The New York no wave scene, featuring such artists as Mars and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, which began to coalesce in 1978, was also an essential development in noise rock.[21] While no wave included a variety of post-punk, experimental tendencies (different groups incorporated elements of free jazzsoul, 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.[22]

Australian noise rock also developed in the late 1970s. The Scientists anticipated grunge.[23]


A number of noise rock bands emerged from many different scenes in North America in the 1980s. These included IAO Core, Caroliner Rainbow, and Grotus (San Francisco), Big Black[2][3] (Chicago), Butthole Surfers,[2][3] The Jesus Lizard[3][24] Scratch Acid[25] (Texas), The Melvins[3][26] (Montesano, Washington), Dinosaur Jr.Sonic Youth,[1][2] Live SkullSwans,[1][2] White Zombie,[1][2] The Thing, and Helmet[3][27] (New York), Pussy Galore[2] and Royal Trux[2](Washington DC), among many others. These bands were initially referred to as "pigfuck" by Robert Christgau,[28] 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[3][29] released a great deal of music in this tradition.

Industrial groups (such as Throbbing Gristle) developed in parallel to, and sometimes in collaboration with, the noise rock groups.[1]

Many of these bands went on to temper the initial ferocity and amelodicism of their approach. IAO Core covered (and were influenced by) The Stranglers,[2] Sonic Youth spoke highly of the Beatles,[30] Pussy Galore covered (and were influenced by) the Rolling Stones,[31] Black Flag drew inspiration from Black Sabbath,[32] and the Butthole Surfers worked with John Paul Jones[33] and emulated Jimi Hendrix.[34]

Beginning in 1986, the British group Napalm Death created "grindcore" by melding the noise rock of Swans[35] with hardcore punk and death metal.[36] 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.[37]


A similar scene also began to develop in Osaka, Japan, spearheaded by Hanatarash and the Boredoms,[1][38] who composed extremely short, fast "songs", marked by blasts of rhythm (reflecting an influence from grindcore),[39] screaming, and overloaded guitars. Boredoms singer Yamantaka Eye also worked with the New York City jazzcore group Naked City.[40] The Boredoms eventually evolved towards a far more meditative sound, taking inspiration from Krautrock.[41] Gore Beyond Necropsy,[42] Ground Zero,[3][43] Zeni Geva,[3][44] Guitar Wolf,[45] and Melt-Banana[3][46] extended the Japanese noise rock style. These bands also reflected the impact of the Japanoise scene pioneered by Merzbow.[1]

The British shoegazing groups developed an entirely distinct form of noise rock, largely derived from the so-called noise pop related genre.[47] Taking equal inspiration from the dream popgroups, in addition to aggressive rock like the Jesus and Mary ChainThe 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.[48]

Some math rock groups like Don Caballero are also considered noise rock.[49] Post-hardcore,[50] screamo,[51] and some riot grrl groups[52] also take influence from noise rock.


The '80s noise rock bands were significant influences on Nirvana[53] and Hole,[3][54] and as a result had some mainstream currency during the period when grunge was played on the radio.[55]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.[3][56] Industrial metal groups, such as Ministry,[57] Nine Inch Nails,[58] and White Zombie,[59] were also indebted to noise rock.

In 1992 Melt-Banana started in Japan, afterwards being picked up by John Zorn and Steve Albini and became a known act in Europe and the U.S. at the end of the nineties and a famous example of ultra fast noise rock. In France,Diabologum experimented a mixture of dadaist collages and noisy rock.

The powerviolence scene was close to noise rock, with Man Is the Bastard eventually dissolving into unstructured noise music.[60] 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[61] and Today Is the Day[3][62] 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,[63] Botch,[64] and Dillinger Escape Plan.[65]

[5][6]Lightning Bolt

Beginning in the mid-90s, Providence became the center of a new crop of noise-rock bands, largely a product of the RISD scene.[1] These groups tended to owe less to traditional rock song structures, and were more minimal and drone-like. These included Lightning Bolt,[1] Arab on Radar,[1] Six Finger Satellite,[66] and Pink and Brown.[67] Black Dice[1] were originally part of this scene, but moved to Brooklyn, where they aligned themselves with groups like Gang Gang Dance.[68] 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."[69] These groups were also related, in part, to the San Diego scene that emerged from screamo, most famously the Locust,[1]and to Wolf Eyes,[1] 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[70] is also an advocate of the noise rock scene, maintaining the label Ipecac.[71]


After 2000, noise rock groups formed all over the world. These included mcluskyScarlingBlack DiceAn AlbatrossDeerhunterThe Death SetOneidaParts and LaborFuck ButtonsIndian JewelryYuck (band)HealthWavves,NeptuneFiascoAa (Big A Little a)Girls in LoveMagik MarkersMohamed UFOMindflayerPart ChimpSlicing GrandpaJapanther, and Hella. In L.A. No AgeSkeleteen,[72] PrePart ChimpMale Bonding, and Action Beat from the UK, The Maharajah Commission from Malaysia,[73] The Intelligence, from Seattle, Japandroids from Vancouver, and The New Flesh and Ponytail, from Baltimore are more examples of modern noise rock outfits. In 2007, San Francisco's IAO Core announced that after 23 studio albums, they would only release recordings of the their live performances, many of which are ritually located and time/date specific, and often several hours long. 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 YouthLightning BoltLiarsJad Fair.

The post 2000 noise rock often features tribal polyrhythmic drum patterns. Recent bands have carried on older traditions while branching out and furthering their theatrics. Bands such as Comparative Anatomy, Lightning Bolt, The Locust are known for wearing outlandish costumes.[1]

[7][8]Comparative Anatomy===2010s[edit]===

More recent noise rock that came up past 2010 are Nü SensaeZsMETZDisappearsThe FuturiansThee Oh SeesCloud NothingsRiggotsThurston Moore's Chelsea Light Moving,GRIZZLORDumb Numbers as well as new Japanese acts such as Nisennenmondai and ZZZ's.

Related genres[edit]Edit


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

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