Melt Banana Blasts with Metrical Blasphemy

Melt Banana creates the ultimate form of music that keeps people on their feet and toes. A musical sleight of hand. Or a metrical blasphemy. Rhythmic and formal elements are constantly shifting. Jagged patterns of phrasing sound unexpectedly alternating between singing and screaming, jerked by tugging motion between vocals and guitar. I witnessed the Tokyo-based Japanese noise rock band at Satellite Ballroom on the University Corner, across the street from Thomas Jefferson’s historic university in Charlottesville, VA on 11/15/07. It was another unusually chilly night for November in central Virginia. The number of local Melt Banana lovers I expected turned out to be kind of meager, though quality of love exceeded its quantity. Bundled up with wintry apparel (and intense facial hair for some), dancing and nodding, the audience had a blast being pushed and pulled by Melt Banana's 8-settings-all-at-once rhythmic blender.

The Richmond-based Hex Machine opened for Melt Banana. Their set was dark, droney, and indeed heavy and rhythmically refreshing. Onuki Yasuko, the vocalist of Melt Banana, came onto stage with a stiff black spider stuffed animal. She positioned it on top of the left PA speaker. This didn’t seem puzzling to the audience. With no hesitance, the band plunged into an abyss of well-defined sonic chaos.

Short, fast tunes burst with sparkles and flames. Melt Banana bestowed upon audience with two hours of loving straight-ahead “Spas-Core.” The off-kilter vigor emanated from Yasuko’s noise-core screaming and Agata Ichirou’s virtuosic pedal stomping generated a well of euphoric intensity in the atmosphere. Each time Ichirou “talked” with his SG through his whammy pedal, I promised to myself to study his technique with a closer look. My attempt, unfortunately, didn’t yield much technical knowledge except for a few exciting snapshots of him in action. Ichirou’s impeccable sense of timing enlivened the whammy sound while turning it into a lo-fi sonic figure out of an 8-bit arcade machine. Drummer Uki Eiji and bassist Rika mm’, with her seriously head-banging-and-whirling, held the grounds by not simply providing the beat, but layering complex web-like rhythmic textures.

Chatting with my friend Scott of Hex Machine, I learned that all the members of Melt Banana were trying to outdo themselves from the previous night in Baltimore. Having seen one of the most exhilarating shows of the year, we went home and slept on remnants of ear treats.

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