Noise rock (sometimes called noise punk) is a diverse style of experimental rock employing noise music elements, which spun off from punk rock in the 1980s. Drawing on movements such as no wave, minimalism, industrial music, and New York hardcore, artists indulge in extreme levels of distortion through the use of electric guitars, and less frequently, electronic instrumentation, either to provide percussive sounds or to contribute to the overall arrangement.
Some groups are tied to song structures, such as Sonic Youth. Although they are not representative of the entire genre, they helped popularize noise rock among alternative rock audiences by incorporating melodies into their droning textures of sound, which set a template that numerous other groups followed.
Noise rock fuses rock to noise, usually with recognizable "rock" instrumentation, but with greater use of distortion and electronic effects, varying degrees of atonality, improvisation, and white noise. One notable band of this genre is Sonic Youth who took inspiration from the No Wave composers Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham.
Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore has stated: "Noise has taken the place of punk rock. People who play noise have no real aspirations to being part of the mainstream culture. Punk has been co-opted, and this subterranean noise music and the avant-garde folk scene have replaced it."
While the music had been around for some time, the term "noise rock" was coined in the 1980s to describe an offshoot of punk groups with an increasingly abrasive approach. An archetypal album is the Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat (1968). Treblezine's Joe Gross credits the "cult classic" with being the first noise rock album, accordingly, "perhaps it’s an obvious starting point, but it’s also the starting point. Period."
While noise rock has never really had any mainstream popularity, the raw, distorted and feedback-intensive sound of some noise rock bands had an influence on grunge. Among them are Wisconsin's Killdozer, and most notably San Francisco's Flipper, a band known for its slowed-down and murky "noise punk". The Butthole Surfers' mix of punk, heavy metal and noise rock was a major influence, particularly on the early work of Soundgarden.