Melt Banana - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Melt Banana

Melt Banana

By Eugene S. Robinson


Because being able to tell one type of noise from another is the key to survival.

By Eugene S. Robinson

You are really not expected to understand any of this. Which is why we’re here. To … explain. Because while “noise” music is as poorly understood as harmolodics and free jazz — and just as widely dismissed — what happened in Japan in the 1990s was as artistically significant as guitar-based jams could ever have been.

How significant?

Like on the far, far reaches of taste and tolerance. Led by bands like The Boredoms (who played Lollapalooza when that meant something), The Ruins, and KK Null, the “scene” eventually spit out one Melt Banana and the art of music was altered in a really fundamental way. Led by singer Yako Onuki, Melt Banana served up deafening blasts of seemingly formless guitar-bass-drum-based noise. The songs were very short, and when the band played live, they were inevitably followed by a not-so-coy “thank you very much.”

But something strange happened. Melt Banana, rather than either burning out or fading away, got even more interesting. Tuneful in the way that Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound was tuneful, it started to dawn on the cognoscenti that what they were was a pop band. A disguised pop band but a pop band nonetheless. 

Over 23 EPs and 10 albums this became much more apparent, and just now, like now, they’ve released their newest called Fetch and done something even more unexpected: jettisoned the rhythm section. Which means: Bass and drums are gone; it’s just Onuki and guitarist Ichiro Agata. They are now touring the world as a two piece.

According to longtime soundman/audio engineer Manuel Liebeskind, what they’ve done totally justifies whatever meager acclaim the mostly non-aware music press is throwing their way. “They used to call themselves a hardcore band,” Liebeskind says from his home in Berlin. ”But they use elements of hip-hop and are influenced by Destiny’s Child amongst other pop stuff. So I consider them more the future of pop than anything else really.”

Which would defy the casual listener who hears a melange of grindcore, electronica, hardcore and pop all coming from two very polite people on stage. Onuki shrieks and Agata wears a medical mask, a vestige of an almost career-ending illness from a few years past. While Agata is not, according to Liebeskind, “the best guitar player in the world, he’s probably the best guitar pedal player.”

So Fetch and their live shows are layered with more and more electronics for a sound that’s almost orchestral, courtesy of two musical artists of both might and note.

But it’s an acquired taste, so breathe deeply and charge on in. You can thank us later.


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