On nights like any others in the early 1980s, unsuspecting venues from London to San Francisco would host post-apocopalyptic art thugs, who dragged hydraulic drills, acetylene torches, and blocks of cement to stages that often barely survived the experience. This new... [more]
On nights like any others in the early 1980s, unsuspecting venues from London to San Francisco would host post-apocopalyptic art thugs, who dragged hydraulic drills, acetylene torches, and blocks of cement to stages that often barely survived the experience. This new breed of conceptual artists recalled Pink Floyd's swirl of flashing light projections and feedback of a generation earlier, or the "Cabaret Voltaire" experiments of early twentieth-century avant-gardists. Like its past brethren, noise rock/ art rock (literally) smashes through disciplines.
The original art rock of the early 1970s revealed a symphonic, technical side of rock that was exemplified by Yes and Genesis in England, and tinkered with by the more experimental Europeans: Magma, Can, and Gong. Beefheart and Zappa inspired progressive European groups (such as Czeckoslovakia's Plastic People of the Universe) to focus on the rock part of the equation, while Dadaism and Futurism influenced the American groups that focused on the spectacle aspect of the genre. Later developments have exploded and explored meaning, form, and process with methods drawn from barbarism as well as from high art.
And art rock has had many arms. In New York City, the Knitting Factory became a New Music mecca, hosting everyone from Elliot Sharp to Sonic Youth. Across the country, San Francisco was home to the eyeball-headed electric circus freaks known as The Residents, and later to Rhythm & Noise, who transformed industrial spaces into performance venues rich with visual semiotics. In Germany, Einst'rzende Neubaten refused to even call themselves a band, as long as donning the figurative artist's smock allowed them access to museum spaces. Slovenian noise rock organization Laibach also favored art manifestos over rock-star posturing, offering military aesthetics and pseudo-ideological rants that are sometimes scarier than they are funny.
So, as intellectuals and aesthetes applaud android goddess Laurie Anderson for her sleekly refined merger of performance art and music, today's spiritual descendants of Artaud may favor the ergot-drunk cavemen sound of "Acid Police" by the Japanese noise band, the Boredoms. The subtext of both "art" and "noise" as musical terms is that their definitions are fluid. As modifiers, they may be applied to sub-classifications of other genres (as in noise
breakbeats, atmospheric noise, noise pop) anytime they fulfill a loose criteria, like using cacophony as a compositional tool. [show less]