Music Reviews

Melt-Banana "fetch"

(A-Zap) Rating - 10/10

Candy Gun is the pitch.  A gentle tone and some breaking waves wash over a heavy bass riff and six-string electricity.  A belled snare kicks in and wisps of circuitry fly everywhere.  Frets are wildly manipulated, percussion wonderfully assaultive.  Yako’s chirping vocal seems glorious against this unnatural complexity produced by Melt-Banana, a band twenty years invested in bending convention into something unrecognizable.  By song’s end, “fetch, the band’s tenth full-length release, becomes this unrelenting hyper-melodic wonder that brims with Melt-Banana’s signature weirdness and heavily composed progressive detail. 

By March of 2011, the Japanese noise-core duo (vocalist Yako and guitarist Agata) was ready to record the songs that would ultimately comprise the make-up of “fetch.  Unfortunately, once the Fukushima disaster occurred, plans to record were understandably halted and the album was put on hold. 

Eventually, the band was able to revisit the material and, in doing so, reconsidered what they’d initially demo’d.  Musically, much of “fetch” is programmed, its electronically bolstered and musically elaborate extremes still realized in “live” sound, or performed as if its rhythmic counterparts had physicality and traditional instruments in hand.  There was a point in time when Melt-Banana played with a true rhythm section and it’s an aspect of their sound they retain within “fetch, even if the belled sounds of the snare drum occasionally give way to something more electronically generated (as is the case in Lefty Dog (Run, Caper, Run)).  It all sounds natural:  the overt percussive onslaught of The Hive and the bass-dominating Infection Defective, a track that not only boasts the type of sturdy rhythmical heft you’d hear from a band like Helmet, but also space-relative prog nuance and elaborate soloing in an otherwise riff-driven piece of music. 

As Melt-Banana produce these challenging ultra-fast sonic seizures that seem impossible to play, the band also cultivates a prog-relative extreme in terms of how they compose and arrange their music.  Within the minute and twenty-seven seconds of Vertigo Game, Melt-Banana employ a considerable amount of rhythmic shifts and drum changes in what should simply be a hardcore track.  It’s doesn’t come across overthought, though, because every second is so complimentary and well devised it almost sounds like a very fast and slightly ornate pop song.  The melodies stand out.  While they don’t really outshine the complexity of the song, nor do they resonate within any truly discernible hook, the melodies result in something strangely catchy. 

My Missing Link revels in a highly noise-enriched fusion of guitar sounds and electronic tones for a little more than a minute before slamming into some insanely conceived drum work and minimal low end.  Jazz, hardcore, no wave…  the ideas at work are overwhelming and fall in line beneath a key melody that, while mostly dissonant, blankets the song in menace. 

Schemes of the Tails has a strangely militaristic percussive bounce that eventually dices up the lead in to the hook.  Comparable to other songs on the album, Agata’s guitar work seems most relaxed here, strums as opposed to strokes.  As the first true song on the second half of the album, (the track Zero+ consists mostly of field recordings of frogs, birds and nightlife), Schemes of the Tails precedes the stylized thrash of Lie Lied Lies, which momentarily lapses into some weird square dance/disco punk hybrid.  Red Data, Red Stage acts as a collapsing precursor to Then Red Eyes, the two tracks glued together like an art punk medley. 

A layered fleet of interwoven guitar loops introduces the amusing JPop of Zero.  Following the mostly rapid and aurally tricky substance of “fetch, Zero winds up this nicely contrasting finale that carries the album to a close like a karaoke song or the backdrop of some colorful video game, Yako’s voice at its highest register which qualifies it categorically as “cartoon.”  It’s a perfectly absurd ending to an album whose imagination is fortified and enlivened by the limitlessness of punk rock and musical experimentation.  For twenty or so years, Melt-Banana has been moving forward, the band continuing to challenge itself creatively while other bands seem happy enough to either revive or settle.  Having said that, it’s really no wonder so few bands have gotten this far from a evolutionary standpoint, content to take many steps backwards when they should be trying to catch up.