By Ahsan Sajid
80s noise rock is the perfect harmony between energy and chaos. While music focuses on melody and all that jack, real noise rockers focus on the way the sound of music affects them and their audience. You either understand noise rock completely, or you don't understand it at all. Same goes for noise rock appreciation; there is no middle path. You don't listen to noise rock once in a while when the mood strikes and you don't wait for it to grow on you. It's a life-changing genre for hardcore fans that you love or hate from the very first listen. You can't ask a noise rocker if s/he plays a minor or major pentatonic. S/he, in all likelihood, can't be bothered to give two shits about it.
Noise rock is sometimes known as noise punk because it is a style of post-punk rock. Noise rock makes use of traditional instrumentation of rock, but incorporates atonality and dissonance, frequently using unconventional modes of songwriting. One shouldn't go into too much details while describing noise rock because it's the one genre people need to witness to begin to understand. It is lots of heavy distortion, distorted vocals, big angry drums, and lyrics that could have been written by a serial killer. It is music that fits that dark, far off side of a twisted personality. To some it really sounds like noise, to others it is beautiful music. It's energy, that's all it is. And to echo, you either completely understand it or you don't at all.
Tracing back to its origins, noise rock is an outgrowth of punk rock; more specifically- the sort that expresses angst and exuberance through the glorious racket of amateurishly played electric guitars. But unlike most punk rock, noise rock always concentrates on the sheer power of their sound. While most noise rock bands concentrate on the ear-shattering sounds that can be produced by distorted electric guitars, some also use electronic instrumentation, whether as percussion or to add to the overall cacophony.
In the 80s, with the birth of modern noise rock, pioneers Sonic Youth helped bring noise rock to a wider audience by incorporating melody into their droning walls of sound. Not all noise rock resembles their music, however, as the idea is for cretins new to noise. 80s bands like Swans and Big Black took a much darker, more threatening approach. Noise rock became a totem pole for crazed, shock-oriented takes on music in the late 80s and 90s, by which time bands were using the guitar noise to help create a dirty, decadent and repulsive atmosphere.
Since the best way to understand noise rock is to experience it, this article is followed by a somewhat accessible playlist of some of the best noise rock songs. Remember to only listen if you think you can handle crazy.
1) Acid Police - Boredoms (Formed in Osaka, Japan, their genre is often called Japanoise; their music is avant garde and revolves around minimal, ambient noises and strange, eclectic drumming.)
2) Children of God - Swans (The most influential noise rock band of all time, its members still going strong, Swans is known to change their sound with every song, not just every album; this song is first light in a world full of darkness and decadence. It is gospel music- for the hell bound. The entire album is overwhelming and transcendental.)
3) Sonny's Burning - The Birthday Party (With Nick Cave ripping his throat out at the beginning of the song with "Hands up who wants to die!", this is one of the purest and darkest songs of post-punk history. To quote from the song, flame on!)
4) Prayer to God - Shellac (The bass line.)
5) Mouth Breather - The Jesus Lizard (How many people out there know The Jesus Lizard? And how many of you know Kurt Cobain? Now, how many of you know that Kurt Cobain was inspired by Jesus Lizard since he was learning to play the guitar?)
6) Bad Penny - Big Black (A surprising little noise rock song that is somehow catchy. How did that get pulled off? The album's a ground zero requirement for all and any introduction to noise rock. Steve Albini plays with a metal guitar pick of his own design, resulting in music that cannot be ignored.)
7) Heave Ho - Cows (The song begins with a baby being smacked)
8) Superpussy - Rapeman (Rapeman is a noise rock super group with Steve Albini of Big Black and David Sims and Rey Washam of Scratch Acid. They play a brand of noise rock characterized by complex, atypical rhythms often including irregular stopping and starting, frequent use of irregular time-signatures, and dissonant, angular guitars.)
Noise rock is an extremely wide genre of music. Since it has no constraints or boundaries like other genres of music, the possibilities are endless, making the genre one that never gets boring; every emerging band has something new to offer. While it started in the 60s, and arguably even artists like Lou Reed of Velvet Underground and Iggy Pop of The Stooges experimented with various forms of noise elements and distortion in their music, noise rock solidified as a real genre in the 80s and that is why the article makes no mention of them.
The pictures used aren't all necessarily of the bands mentioned in this article. They were selected from noise rock artists on the basis of which picture illustrated the spirit of the genre most.
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By Musarrat Rahman
The future of the movies, 'Avatar', is here. But along with the eye-popping visuals in writer-director James Cameron's sci-fi epic, opening on December 10th '09, there's also a lot of eye-rolling silly stuff.
Like Cameron's last film, the box-office and Oscar behemoth 'Titanic', the film's made news as the most expensive ever (costing 500 million) and for being a new frontier in hyper-real CGI (it's in 3-D and IMAX as well as standard format). 'Avatar' clears the snag in terms of being optical candy, the graphics and visual effects were breathtaking, the scenery being unexplainable. Its story, though, is pure cheese.
Sam Worthington is Jake Scully, a paraplegic Marine in the year 2154 assigned to another planet called Pandora, where his consciousness controls an avatar, a clone of Pandora's indigenous, humanoid Na'vi people. As Jake lies in a high-tech tanning bed, his mind is in his blue Na'vi, which is 10 feet tall with pointy ears, cat eyes and a tail.
A scientist (a tough Sigourney Weaver) created the process to aid diplomatic relations with the Na'vi, since the air is poisonous to humans and space suits, apparently, get in the way. It's the last chance for the peaceful aliens - who know what the avatars really are - since a corporate goon (Giovanni Ribisi) wants a valuable element (aptly named unobtanium) buried deep under the 'hometree', the Na'vi's spiritual center. And if diplomacy fails, a gung-ho sergeant (Stephen Lang) will get it at any cost.
Cameron counts too much on the connection the audience will have have to his goofy-looking blue man group, or with Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), the Na'vi warrior princess who helps Jake's heart go on. Saldana delivers a remarkably full-bodied motion-capture performance, but the mystic-tribal clichés around her suggest every Netflix queue on Pandora includes 'Dances with Wolves', 'The Last of the Mohicans' and 'Pocahontas'.
Still, Cameron is invested with every fiber of his being, and it shows. He jumps right in, getting us to Pandora not long after the lights dim and we put on our stylish 3-D glasses to soak in the strange flora and fauna, including wild dinosaur/tree-looking beasties.
And he does give Jake's toggling between worlds a philosophical subtext - when his avatar sleeps, he reluctantly rejoins humanity. Plus, there's an explosive final battle that's as much 'Aliens'-era Cameron as the love story is 'Titanic' in space.
And ofcourse, we should keep in mind the subliminal messages of the movie, 'GREEDY, SELFISH HUMANS ARE DESTROYING OUR PLANET'.
The CGI world of "Avatar" is indeed like nothing you've ever seen. Too bad its corniness is so familiar.