Czech Noise Rock
An introduction to the some of the bands, venues, labels and festivals that make up this thriving alternative scene
Take post-punk, post-hardcore, heavy metal, grunge and what was left of rock 'n' roll, put it all in the city's darkest corners, add a few guitar effects and distorted brains, shake well and inject directly into your heart.
That would be noise.
I told my friend that I was going to a concert the other night. He asked me what type of concert and when I said "noise" he laughed because he thought I meant it was gonna be loud.
But noise doesn't only mean that it's loud.
Even though it is, and should be.
Noise, or noise rock, is very guitar-oriented. It builds a thick wall of sound using guitar effects, often more than one at once. It twists your head until there's nothing left from your brain.
To achieve that, musicians play weird sounds with weird lyrics, kill your ears with feedback and tear strings from their guitars. At the end, you're happy that you've survived this hell, so you go to the bar and get drunk with the guitarists.
To exactly define this kind of music is quite tough.
The important thing is that it involves new musical ideas and lyrical connections. Everything is allowed but it doesn't have to shock. The aim is to turn the usual procedures of making music upside-down and produce intense and harsh but also harmonic sound.
Noise rock is definitely urban music. It takes the best and the worst from the city and turns it into slivers that attack you with naked brutality and get under your skin.
This is no heavy metal headbang-and-hail-Satan, though. This is "the hottest chicks. The biggest cocks. The cleverest bullshit," as Silver Rocket, a Czech alternative- and noise-rock label states on its website.
It's meant to be fun at first, and deep thoughts come later.
Most noise rock bands have a weird name. Jesus Lizard, Cows, Lightning Bolt, Pissed Jeans, Dinosaur Jr., Shellac, And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, just to name a few.
The Czech noise-rock scene is a fertile one too. The best-known bands are Esgmeq, Gnu, Děti deště ("Children of the Rain"), Wollongong, Fetch!, Zkouška sirén are ("Siren Check"). But there are many more and I don't want to be barred from concerts just because I omitted them...
The noise-rock scene is very regional, just as the punk scene is. There are local noise bands in almost every Czech town, so it's difficult to keep track of all of them, but the best bands tour and are well known.
The biggest Prague noise-rock festival is the Silver Rocket Summer Stroj which, in 2008, took place at Střelecký ostrov in August.
The bands featured were Zkouška sirén, Fetch!, Děti deště, Elektročas, OTK, and American visitors Made Out of Babies.
Another interesting event is Krh Fest, held in October at the U Tvrze club, where the bands play for free and the money goes to a choir called Krhuti. In 2008, the line-up included Lyssa, Wollongong, Coccoon, Lahar, and Gnu.
Klub V Jelení also offers a lot of alternative music. The venue itself is very small so even if only a few people come, amateur bands at the beginning of their musical career feel like they're playing in front of a huge audience.
The best performances I've seen there were a guitar-and-drums improvisation called Kodet, featuring the guitarist from Děti deště and a female drummer; a group called Or, whose guitarist looks a bit like a young Cobain; and Evilasmodel, a relatively new but very promising band.
If I had to compare noise with other genres, I'd say it wasn't as happy as ska, nor as political as punk, nor as consumerist as pop.
Noise is for people who still love guitar music most, but can't find themselves within other modern rock genres, and who seek invention and creativity, even in music that deviates from the mainstream.
This article is just to give you an idea of the Prague noise-rock scene, but there's much more to it than I've described here.
You have to go listen to it, be there, breathe it, and live it.
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