After ten albums and a couple dozen EPs, Japanese noisecore eccentrics Melt Banana are back with more of the same after two belters in 2003’s ‘Cell-scape’ and 2007’s ‘Bambi’s Dilemma’. Led by the distinctive yelp-vocal of Yasuko Onuki, the band has now been reduced to a duo after the departure of bassist Rika Hamamoto. On this outing guitarist Ichirou Agata takes control of the rhythm section, laying down those grungey basslines alongside the programming and samples that form the back-beat. Their last full-time drummer left in 2000, and since then it’s been a revolving drum-stool around the core duo. ‘Fetch’ eschews a sticks-man full stop in favour of the synthetic approach, but the album is no less full-on than those previous despite the reduction in personnel.
What sounds like a digital alarm tone and the lapping of waves calls the album to life, as a bassline emerges from the glitch-noise of Candy Gun. Drums kick in and laser sounds fire off, and the lack of a living breathing drummer is impossible to discern. Each track from here onwards on ‘Fetch’ springs forth from a patchwork of chaotic noise, yet each has its own distinctive signifier; despite the hardcore workouts and schizo guitar of Agata, it’s as melodic and – dare we say it – poppy an album as Melt Banana have released.
The band’s hardcore tendencies are still to the fore. Left Dog (Run, Caper, Run) and The Hive up the BPM count, an abrasive but melodic synth midsection halfway between techno and a skipping CD breaking into the relentless kick/snare crossfire of the latter. The screeching guitar effects of Infection Defective are similarly interrupted by more of those snare rolls, giving Onuki and Agata a base from which to ratchet up their fusion of high-pitched disorder. Lie Lied Lies marries needling electro-signals with a full-on punk rhythm section, breaking into a funk rock strut, albeit briefly.
My Missing Link bears another scouring intro, the screams of a thousand guitar pedals folded into a whistling typhoon of radio static. The drums pile in, as Onuki’s layered vocal ascends on the chorus over the Atari Teenage Riot-style pummelling. An interesting military/tribal style snare intro carries Schemes Of The Tails, with Onuki tying the chaotic coda together with a repeated phrase. Repletion too typifies Zero+, where the loop of guitar harmonics kicks things off, only to cut dead in favour of ambient animal sounds. The natural symphony escalates as more animals join the croaking of frogs; it’s a bizarre interlude but no less odd than the closing track, Zero. A disordered trill of layered guitars gradually solidifies to become a disco stomp of sorts, with a more restrained vocal performance compared to the rest of the album. Somehow, a disco vibe to go out on just doesn’t seem right, but it’s still as haphazardly melodic and industrial as the rest.
Ultimately, this is a not-broken-don’t-fix scenario. If Melt Banana weren’t your thing before ‘Fetch’, the chances are that won’t change, and Onuki’s vocal style is certainly a divisive element. For the rest of us, though, this ranks with their very best, and all in just over thirty glorious minutes.
If you like Melt Banana check out Irish band Adebisi Shank