This Japanese Quartet Will Rock Your World!

With frenzied, wailing, guitar lines that sound more like squealing subway cars careening around sharply curved rusty tracks than what you think of as a “guitar part” in any known genre of music, and a car alarm voiced lead singer who’ll convince you Yoko Ono was on to something, Melt-Banana’s noise littered music is a neon-lit sci-fi fun house assault that at first sounds more like the sonic embodiment of a video game than an electronic re-invention of punk.

While its slippery musical surface glitters dangerously, and rushes by disorientingly fast, once you’re acclimated to the music’s velocity and intensity, even a casual listen will reveal some familiar musical guideposts—like guitarist AGATA’s fleeting references to Jimi Hendrix, starting with the “And the Gods Made Love”-like opening. Hendrix aimed for thick and “heavy” textures, but this Japanese quartet is all about turbo-charged, warp speed delivery of chirps, blips, and “The Day the Earth Stood Still” electronically elasticized, oscillator driven noise. Accidentally, or purposefully, there’s even a Brian Eno Another Green World quote on one track.

Yet, behind all of the metalicized icy bombast, the flurries of distorted, repetitive ooze and lead singer YaSuKo O’s cheerleader-like frantic, high-pitched urging, is a classic drums, bass, guitar rock band. Once you wrap your musical lips around that, it’s easy to swallow Melt-Banana’s meticulously constructed methadrine-like musical concept whole.

”cell-scape,” the quartet’s fifth album (the band’s been around since 1991) is my introduction, so I can’t tell you where it sits on the group’s creativity curve, but I’d bet it's at or near the top. I heard it without knowing anything about the group, and found myself saying this is the first “something new” I’ve heard in years that’s strong enough to launch a new musical genre. Word has it the band can play this fast live and that most, if not all of the otherworldly sounds are guitar generated.

Melt-Banana’s first two albums were recorded by Steve Albini and mixed by Jim O’Rourke—an auspicious way to commence a recording career! There's a 1998 John Zorn produced live album on his Tzadik label, and the group has been involved in dozens of recorded collaborations, which led me to ask myself where the hell I’ve been for the past decade, and how come I missed Melt-Banana's first decade. Better late than never.

Most enthusiastically recommended for those whose adrenal glands need messaging. Mine did. I’m hooked.

An A-Zap representative told me via email that all Melt-Banana albums except for the live album on Tzadik are available on vinyl, though the limited edition vinyl of Scratch or Stich, the group's second album is sold out.