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Harsh Noise

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Harsh Noise is a subgenre of Noise Music. Now what, you may ask, separates Harsh Noise from regular noise? It is a question of degree. Where noise music at large uses any number of non-musical sounds or textures to achieve a particular musical effect, the effect intended by Harsh Noise is most often a visceral one: To overwhelm the listener with sound, either through pain or ecstasy. To that end, Harsh Noise musicians use sounds at the extremes of frequency and volume, often densely layering and arranging any number of abrasive sounds.

At its root, Harsh Noise can be seen as a kind of offshoot of some of the later trends (particularly Power Electronics) in the first wave of Industrial back in The '70s; one notable precursor would be Throbbing Gristle's 1978 track "Walls of Sound", a collage consisting of several live improvisations that the band had done layered on top of each other. Other precedents include Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music and the synthesiser and guitar improvisations of Japanese free musician Keiji Haino, who later became a Harsh Noise performer himself. (Indeed, many of the most well-known names in this noise subgenre and others come from Japan, leading to the jocular term "Japanoise"—which, funnily enough, is the same pun in both languages.)

Though Harsh Noise remains mostly an underground niche for obvious reasons, some artists, such as Merzbow have found a certain degree of success among indie crowds, in no small part due to their influence upon and collaborations with more popular artists, such as Sonic Youth. It's also popular among grindcore and powerviolence, and to a lesser extent, Black Metal fans due to the extremely heavy influence that it had on a lot of early acts.

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