Ironically, a genre that takes so much out of music is on the rise again with influence. No Wave was a short lived art scene out of the dirt cheap New York City downtown. It originated with the rise of constant drug use and visual art growing in the New York downtown area, and with a mentality of going against the pop-culture scene, many people took to the underground movement. No Wave is a weird style. It’s mostly atonal, and doesn’t have any sort of song structure. It goes against everything that is popular music, or let alone experimental music. No Wave is the epitome of experimental. Many artists have emerged as extremely influential in this genre, such as DNA, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Mars, and notably Glenn Branca.
What attracts me to this certain sound is how different it is. There’s no way of comparing it to other sounds, because there is no other sound. For a first time listener, it will be taken as pure noise, but I find that can be the point. It’s almost about pushing the limits of ‘what is music’ with textures. Many of these avant-garde musicians came from New York, but a group I’m very fond of came out of France. Out of all places, a small group called Rosa Yemen released their only EP, titled Rosa Vertov, in their home country. It garnered zero coverage, but lead vocalist, Lizzy Mercier Descloux, went on to have a semi-successful career out of using No Wave as an influence for her world beat and post-punk career. Now Rosa Vertov stands out to me as a great EP from this genre because of how raw it is. At just over eight minutes, this thing really puts a point across. The opening, “Decrypted” has an extremely arrogant and disjointed guitar riff that doesn’t get any easier to listen to as the song progresses. Any sort of structure with this song has flown out the window, and what is left is pure noise. Not the Merzbow style soundscapes, but a very natural and unpleasant sound only found in No Wave.
The second track, “Herpes Simplex”, has a very strong sense of emotion to it. The screaming from Descloux resembles any sort of garage rock or noise rock vocals today. The influences to bands like Sonic Youth or My Bloody Valentine are very strong. It’s like a history lesson on drugs. “Larousse Baron Bic” opens with a minimal guitar riff that 100% influenced the riff for The xx’s “Crystalised”. I’d be very surprised if I heard that the connection can’t be made. It’s for reasons like this that this EP means so much to me. “Rosa Vertov” is the fourth track, and it’s a complete mess. The vocals are everywhere, the guitar jumbles from tremolo picking to eight notes, and there’s a large amount of excess noise added onto the track. Not to mention there’s a droning sound in the background that only adds to the tension. A very interesting track to say the least.
Finally, there’s the semi-tonal track, “Tso Xin Yu X”. For once on the EP there’s a set beat and guitar rhythm that doesn’t fly off the tracks after a second. The track ends very suddenly after a minute and a half rhythm section, and sets itself as a solid closer for a wonderful mess of an EP. It’s very hard to describe No Wave without listening to it. I find that every artist has a different idea of what that term means, but to me it’s almost a play on words with “new wave”. It’s anti-tonal sound goes against everything new wave is, and the entire culture behind No Wave plays a very important role in modern music today. Although the sound might not click with listeners, the story behind the scene itself is seminal to anyone interested in music history. A great way to start is with Rosa Yemen’s EP, Rosa Vertov.
Here’s the track, “Larousse Baron Bic”, which is actually from the original EP, not Descloux’s solo album:
Also, check out the great track, “Herpes Simplex”: