Release Details

RELEASED ON 10/1/2013
GENRES Rock,Noise,Grind
  • ...one can be reassured that swiftness and sonic anarchism still remain the weapons of choice of Yasuko Onuki and Ichirou Agata.


Melt-Banana

Fetch

posted on 3/2014   By: Alex Franquelli

Whenever an adjective like “mature” (or one of its many synonyms, for that matter) is used in a music review, I am naively inclined to think that, no matter how good the album in question might be, the party is truly and sadly over. However, the Japanese noise music scene is an objection to this unwritten rule. This glorious and radically subversive tradition, initiated by acts like Hijokaidan, Incapacitants, Merzbow, C.C.C.C., and Hanatarash in the early 1980s, is now in the capable hands of bands like Ruins, Acid Mothers Temple and, yes, Melt-Banana. But a revolution doesn’t last 20 years and 8 studio albums. A cultural statement does. Because this is exactly what Melt-Banana, this ensemble of variegated colours and affiliates, is.

The whole Japanese art-noise movement may sometimes fall victim of stereotypes and it might be difficult – for some – to discern the pure artistic talent from the often ridiculing characterisation, but its importance and significance cannot be overstated. Moreover, the idea that these purveyors of noise as an artistic asset could reach the level of maturity displayed on Fetch might baffle the casual listener, but one can be reassured that swiftness and sonic anarchism still remain the weapons of choice of Yasuko Onuki and Ichirou Agata.

Designed around the synthetic soul of a sequenced drum machine, Fetch is a hysterical rendition of the eclecticism that is typical of that very Japanese scene. One can hear Cibo Matto (just faster; much faster), Zeni Geva (just lighter; much lighter) and Boredoms (simply Boredoms), all compressed and adapted to fit into a 32-minute record that is to the Western idea of post-hardcore what Abenomics is to Keynesianism: it’s substantially the same thing but it sounds completely different. One archetype – noise – and an indefinite number of perspectives.

Fetch comes out 6 years after yet another little gem, Bambi’s Dilemma, stripped the band’s sound of all that was not strictly necessary: The music was a raw blend of pop and volatility equally balanced on an unstable layer of insanity. But then something happened that turned absurdity into tragedy, when the Tohoku earthquake and the subsequent tsunami swept the country’s hopes of getting out of the economic and social recessions. For this reason, Fetch had to wait and be necessarily different from its predecessor, and diverse it certainly is.

The production – maybe due to the long time the band could spend at the mixing desk - is a crispier reinterpretation of old works like Scratch or Stitch or, more properly, Cell Scape, to which Fetch appears to be the natural continuation. There is even room for slow build-ups ("Candy Gun") and hints of ambience ("Zero +"), but the overall feel of the album is one of uncompromised urgency and control. “Control,” yes, because if there is one thing Onuki and Agata are extremely good at, it's in giving the impression that their chaos is subtly filtered and managed by a clever inspiration, a method crafted throughout the years.

If there is pop in Fetch, it is drowned underneath a slab of feedback and noise, but you can definitely hear it in Onuki’s apparently atonal scats and along the routes Agata’s riffs take. Therefore, and rather ironically, the pop element in Fetch is the result of the sum of components which are inherently discordant and dangerously far from the purely pop aesthetics.

"Lie Lied Lies," "Left Dog (Run, Caper, Run)" and "Vertigo Games" are probably the closest the duo gets to its old, jarring self but, even then, the catchiness remains an inescapable factor wisely presented between noise and urgency. The repetitions on more experimental tunes, like "Infection Defective" or "Scheme of the Tails," Agata’s guitar work, the numerous feedback-driven tunes ("My Missing Link"), and disco divagations make Fetch an outstanding album that projects Melt-Banana into a league of their own.