No wave  

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"In 1978 a series of punk rock influenced loud noise music concerts was held at New York’s Artists’ Space that led to the Brian Eno-produced recording No New York. This recording was the first attempt to define the no wave sound, documenting The Contortions, Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, Mars and DNA." --Sholem Stein

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

No Wave was a short-lived but influential music and art scene that thrived briefly in New York City during the late 1970s and early 1980s alongside the punk scene there. The term No Wave is in part satiric wordplay rejecting the commercial elements of the then-popular New Wave genre. The term also highlights the music's experimental nature: No Wave music belonged to no fixed style or genre. Various groups drew on such disparate styles as funk, jazz, blues, punk rock, avant garde, and experimental. There are, however, some elements common to most No Wave music, such as abrasive atonal sounds, repetitive driving rhythms, and a tendency to emphasize musical texture over melody - typical of the early downtown music of La Monte Young. No Wave lyrics often focused on nihilism and confrontation.

No Wave is often better defined in terms of the artistic environment in which it thrived (the downtown scene of minimal art) and the character of performances typical to its context. No Wave performances drew heavily on performance art and as a result were often examples of a highly theatrical minimalism in their renditions.

Contents

Music

In many ways, No Wave is not a clearly definable musical genre with consistent features. Various groups drew on such disparate styles as funk, jazz, blues, and punk rock. There are, however, some elements common to most No Wave music, such as abrasive atonal sounds, repetitive driving rhythms, and a tendency to emphasize musical texture over melody. No wave lyrics often focused on nihilism and confrontation.

Performance

No Wave is often better defined in terms of the artistic environment in which it thrived and the character of performances typical to its context. No Wave performances drew heavily on performance art and as a result were often both highly theatrical and minimalistic in their renditions.

Influence

No Wave had an important impact on noise and industrial bands who formed after, like Big Black, Lev Six, Helmet, and Live Skull. Sonic Youth emerged from this scene by creating music-as-art that eventually reached mass audiences and critical acclaim. Also for new bands like Liars, Ex Models, Neptune, Erase Errata the influence of the No Wave scene was important.

Dutch experimental luthier Yuri Landman has created several unique stringed instruments, extending the palette of available guitar sounds. One example is his Moodswinger, used by Aaron Hemphill of Liars.

The Brian Eno-"produced" [1] album No New York is perhaps the best example of this genre, featuring songs by Mars, Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, DNA and The Contortions.

Simon Reynolds, author of Rip It Up and Start Again : Postpunk 1978-1984 , wrote

And although "affection" is possibly an odd word to use in reference to a bunch of nihilists, I do feel fond of the No Wave people. James Chance's music actually stands up really well, I think; there are great moments throughout Lydia Lunch's long discography, and Suicide's records are just beautiful. (Listen to James Chance & the Contortions, "Contort Yourself," 1979; and Suicide, "Touch Me," 1980.) [2]


Also during this time there was a period of No Wave Cinema which was an underground film movement in the East Village. No Wave filmmakers included Amos Poe, John Lurie, Vivienne Dick, Scott B and Beth B, and led to the Cinema of Transgression and work by Nick Zedd and Richard Kern.

Late outliers of this movement included groups such as Skeleton Key, Cop Shoot Cop, VPN and others.

Styles and characteristics

In many ways, No Wave is not a clearly definable musical genre with consistent features. Various groups drew on such disparate styles as funk, jazz, blues, punk rock, avant garde, and experimental. There are, however, some elements common to most No Wave music, such as abrasive atonal sounds, repetitive driving rhythms, and a tendency to emphasize musical texture over melody - typical of the early downtown music of La Monte Young. No Wave lyrics often focused on nihilism and confrontation.

No Wave is often better defined in terms of the artistic environment in which it thrived (the downtown scene of minimal art) and the character of performances typical to its context. No Wave performances drew heavily on performance art and as a result were often examples of a highly theatrical minimalism in their renditions.

In 1978 a series of punk rock influenced loud noise music was held at New York’s Artists’ Space that led to the Brian Eno-produced recording No New York. This recording was the first attempt to define the no wave sound, documenting The Contortions, Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, Mars and DNA.

The Noise Fest was an influential festival of art noise music curated by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth at the New York City art space White Columns in June 1981. Sonic Youth made their first live appearances at this show. Each night three to five acts performed, including Glenn Branca, Rhys Chatham, Jeffrey Lohn, Dog Eat Dog, Built on Guilt, Rudolph Grey, the Avant Squares, Mofungo, Red Decade, Robin Crutchfield's Dark Day, Ad Hoc Rock, Smoking Section, Chinese Puzzle, Avoidance Behaviour, and Sonic Youth.

No Wave had a notable influence on noise and industrial bands who formed after, like Big Black, Lev Six, Helmet, and Live Skull. The Theoretical Girls heavily influenced early Sonic Youth, who then emerged from this scene by creating music that eventually reached mass audiences and critical acclaim. Also for new bands like Liars, Ex Models, Neptune, Erase Errata the influence of the No Wave scene was important.

Simon Reynolds, author of Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984, wrote:

"And although "affection" is possibly an odd word to use in reference to a bunch of nihilists, I do feel fond of the No Wave people. James Chance's music actually stands up really well, I think; there are great moments throughout Lydia Lunch's long discography, and Suicide's records are just beautiful."

No Wave music inspired the Speed Trials noise rock series organized by Live Skull members in May 1983 at White Columns with the music of The Fall, Beastie Boys, Live Skull, Sonic Youth, Lydia Lunch, Elliot Sharp, Swans and Arto Lindsay. This was followed by the after-hours Speed Club that was fleetingly established at ABC No Rio.

No Wave quotes

"Deciding to listen to no wave is like being fairly hungry and deciding to eat a low-grade, tepid, somewhat bloody steak. Good in the right circumstance, bad in all others; eerily satisfying in the right place and time, not so much in others." - Unknown

"At the time nobody really liked No Wave!" - Thurston Moore



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