Japanese noise rock and indie J-core band Melt-Banana are back with more sonic lunacy and experimental sound manipulation on their new full-length album, “Fetch,” on A-Zap Records. “Fetch,” the eccentric quartet’s first studio album since “Bambi’s Dilemma” (2007), is a twelve-song collection of brand new Melt-Banana originals, all of them interestingly composed and inventively executed bursts of great mind-blowing soundgasms.
Agata’s distortion-drenched and dynamic guitar riffs, unorthodox and layered, blaze their way from start to finish, with the exception of a few noise-laden overtures and brief electro-riot intros leading into the main bodies of the songs themselves, nebulous portions given peculiar form…or rather, piles of rubble just outside and up against the lower halves of the structures. Rika’s Hamamoto’s low-end involvement consists of pronounced and creative bass lines which complement Agata’s guitar work remarkably well. Throughout the years, pretty much since the mid-90s, Melt-Banana have had a rotating lineup of drummers, yet each one was evidently chosen carefully so as to provide the band’s sound with the percussion it required. On “Fetch,” consistent with the band’s later releases, the drums are more technical and vigorous, occupying an unspecified place somewhere between free jazz, pop, post-punk, and grindcore. And then we have the talented and beautiful Yasuko O., longtime frontwoman and Melt-Banana original member, whose inimitable vocals are full of high-pitched screams and hyper-raps, with a few unusual stops between the two extremes.
Just as one would expect from such a uniquely talented and musically innovative band, Melt-Banana’s brand new album “Fetch” is nothing short of a masterpiece. Be that as it may, Melt-Banana’s music certainly isn’t for everyone. Instead, it is the sort of music that appeals mostly to those with more adventurous musical tastes and appreciation for the decidedly more radical and creative side of sound-crafting. And if you are one of those individuals, as I am, then “Fetch” would probably be right up your alley, from the hard-hitting and frenzied indie rock and spazz-core of the album’s opener Candy Gun, to the choppy and super-heavy midway song My Missing Link, to the discotheque noise chaos and pop madness of the ephemeral closer Zero.
Melt-Banana have been doing their thing since 1991, when it was just Yasuko and Agata, and they were called Mizu. A year later they had a drummer and were calling themselves Melt-Banana. And a year after that, they were opening for some rather notable artists, one of whom, KK Null of Zeni Geva, was impressed enough to sign the band to his label, and then later to introduce the band to Skin Graft Records and Steve Albini. Since then, Melt-Banana have released ten full-length albums and a ton of EPs and splits. They have also shared the stage with some of the who’s who of the bizarro underground, such as Mr. Bungle, The Melvins, Tool, and Fantomas. And they have worked with such musical geniuses as Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, etc) and John Zorn (Naked City, etc).
Upon listening to Melt-Banana’s “Fetch,” it is likely that one’s estimation of the band and their songs turn from somewhat appreciative to positively favorable, and probably beyond even that, just as mine did. Melt-Banana is a band that stands apart from the rest, after all, with its very own genre built around a wholly extraordinary sound which daringly produces musical constructs at the weird crossroads of dissonance and melody, rhythm and fracture, that which is amorphous and that which is given distinct shape, bitter and sweet, life and death, and so on. A bead of sweat, a surge of adrenaline, a trickle of blood from the ear, lines of cryptic poetry scrawled on the peeling walls of a dilapidated tenement, lipstick-smeared mouths and long fingernails marking the back with fresh wounds of ecstasy, a throat full of jumbled words only seconds from heaving them forth in sequence, a black cat stretching its sleek feline form atop a graffiti-covered dumpster and meowing in the moonlight, and a strange place of contraries and in-betweens where things such as anarchy and order meet…where the scream and the whisper, cacophony and music, organic and mechanical, and so on in the way that such fundamental relationships come together, spawning something singularly wonderful, like a collection of very specific songs by a bold and gifted foursome of artists.
Now, having arrived at their latest album “Fetch,” these musical pioneers of sound construction and noise harnessing mastery, should be celebrated not only for their tremendously brilliant musicianship but also their radical steps toward shattering the musical molds from which mainstream standards are poured and hardened into popular hits for the masses to embrace. When one refers to the songs of a particular band as revolutionary, it is a band like Melt-Banana that one is talking about. Check out Melt-Banana’s “Fetch” and see for yourself!
For fans of: The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, Naked City, TsuShiMaMiRe, Mr. Bungle, Encrypt Manuscript, The Flying Luttenbachers, John Zorn, Da Comrade, Bad News Bats, Northern Liberties, etc.