Album of the Week: Hear Melt-Banana Roar Back with the Spastic, Ecstatic, Pop-Grindin’ ‘fetch’
After a six-year hiatus, the Japanese noise-punk pioneers continue to blur lines
Melt-Banana, the original bubble-gnash architects of scrape-and-soar noise-punk have returned for a fresh 33-minute caffeine jolt. Their eighth album, fetch, arrives after a six-year silence — the record was side-lined in 2011 after the T?hoku earthquake and subsequent meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, a disaster that resulted in more than 15,000 lives lost.
fetch is a full reinvention for the band — now touring as a Sparks-gone-grindcore spazz-pop duo — mixing their sugar-rush blastbeats with the optimistic, earth-embracing melodies of bands like Boredoms and Ponytail (it even opens with lapping waves) and a dance-punk song called “Zero” that reminds us of another dance-punk song called “Zero.” Vocalist Yako is still the staccato scattergun who made them underground icons in the mid-’90s, and guitarist Agata is using his metal pick to taste a whole new rainbow of squawks, squerks, robo-Branca squeal, and laser-gun blips. It’s punk at its most windswept, pop at it’s most convulsive, EDM at its most colorful, metal at its most friendly, and a perfect heir (and peer!) to contemporary joy-noise acts like Black Pus, Foot Village, and Fuck Buttons.
Blaze through the whole thing below, read our interview, and help make fetch happen when it drops on A-Zap on October 1.
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How did the earthquake affect you all personally?
Yako: I feel something had been changed in my mind after the earthquake, even though the area where I live was not damaged much. It is hard to explain exactly how it affected me and what has been changed, but it affected me on a very deep level.
Agata: My kitchen was totally destroyed and an old guy in my neighborhood was screaming right after the earthquake hit. My family told me to move back to Osaka because of the risk of radiation, but I just stayed in Tokyo. I think I suffered nothing compared with what people living in Tohoku suffered. After all, my life eventually went back to normal. I was okay and could still play music. But I could not concentrate on writing music for some time for reasons I couldn’t explain.
How did you capture the waves at the beginning of this album? The frogs on “Zero+”?
Agata: I recorded them using a cheap recorder. I like to record sounds outside. And these two sounds were my favorite at the time. The waves include a lot of bubble sounds because there were many small stones at the beach; I felt good with that. I thought those bubbles were kind of similar to the small pieces of guitar I recorded on this album. So I thought it’d be good to use for the beginning of the album.
Yako: Agata recorded the frog sound in Tokushima on Shikoku. Shikoku is one of the islands off Japan’s west coast. It’s a very lovely place richly endowed with natural beauty. We went there to play shows a few times, and we like it there very much.
Agata: At night in the field, we and our friends were walking and I guess creatures were hiding quietly in the dark, and I stopped and started recording. Yako and I stood there still, very quiet, while the others went into the house where we were staying. Then frogs started singing and as more [and] more frogs sang, still more frogs hiding in different places started singing, as well as different insects. It got very loud and sounded like an improvisational concert. I wish I could have captured that atmosphere better, but I liked the recording, so I used it.
This album has a lot of different textures. What is your favorite sound on it?
Agata: I used a lot of tracks of guitar. I wanted to fill the space with guitar sounds, except for lower parts, and then edited it. I like those small bits of guitar sound.
Yako: I like the twinkling sounds, like guitars, samples, etc.
What are the benefits of recording without a live drummer?
Agata: Actually I think that recording with real drummers is easier than using computer! Programming takes a lot of time. The one good thing is that we don’t have to worry about how to get the exact drums sounds we want…or the drummer’s health!
Yako: Since we are playing shows as a two piece using PC for drums, bass, and samples, we don’t have to simulate much about human performance at shows, which makes us feel free to do whatever we want musically.
“Infection Defective” is so joyous and ecstatic. What inspired it?
Agata: I wanted to write a slow song and get a little bit of a cosmic feeling.
Yako: Many sounds and riffs repeat again and again in this song, and these sounds start running in circles in my brain and I felt like I got infected with them. That’s why I put the word “Infection” in the title.
Why did you go in such a dancey direction for the closer, “Zero”?
Yako: I guess we tend to put an unusual song at the end of the album. I didn’t think it was dancey, but cute.