Isn’t all music noise? Well, yes, but genre tags don’t always paint accurate descriptions. Noise music — primarily underground sounds that value volume and dissonance over structure and melody – is nothing new; its forefathers, Sonic Youth, the Jesus and Mary Chain, the Velvet Underground, My Bloody Valentine et al, all reached heights of popularity no noise band could dream of today. Whether that’s down to the internet, autotune or a general distaste for experimentation is anyone’s guess, but here are some of noise’s leading, if not necessarily famous, lights:
Along with Black Dice, Lightning Bolt defined the harder side of the early ‘00s American noise scene. By playing shows in the middle of their crowds at dancefloor level Lightning Bolt brought back the intimate assault on the senses once championed by My Bloody Valentine. Their third album, Wonderful Rainbow, is correctly tagged the most vicious drum and bass album ever, as well as being the greatest racket ever produced by just two instruments.
Notoriously unpredictable, Deerhoof’s career arc reads like that of several bands meshed into one. They’ve gone from noise rockers, to pop producers, through Pro Tools fans, a live band phase, two lush orchestral albums, soundtracking and finally ending up as the band all indie darlings looking for some experimental cred name-check in interviews.
Japanese noise rock may not seem like the most alluring of genres, but out of those who were willing to give Boredoms a chance, few were disappointed. Boredoms’ tribal drums and overall dissonance is some of the most uplifting music, particularly 1998’s Super æ.
Although they have been around since the ‘70s and no-wave, Swans’ 2012 album, The Seer, was the pinnacle of their career. At over two hours long, and laced with biblical imagery, nondescript roars and unrelentingly bleak melodies, The Seer is the finest album of music purely as a physical, bodily experience.
Unlike the other artists on this list, Fennesz is the only musician to be classified as more noise-pop than rock. His undisputed masterpiece, 2001’s Endless Summer, is the finest culmination of the noise/melody contrast invented by the Jesus and Mary Chain. Fennesz found a way to remedy pop music’s obsession with instant gratification by cutting his melodies with noise, and thus reinforcing their prettiness.