Leave it to demented (or maybe not demented, I really can't tell for sure, but I always like to assume the worst-best) PR guy Howard Wuelfing to run across some of the most unusual and attractive new musics extent. The guy never fails to partner up with beyond-the-pale artists discontent with things-as-they-are, ensembles warping genres and modes in fantastic new hybrids, and that's exactly what Melt-Banana purveys, blending glitch with electronica with prog with avant-garde with punk with, well, God only knows what else, at times even harking back to Sadistic Mika Band and Yonin-Bayashi. Nor would I hesitate to find elements of Mike Patton's Fantomas in Fetch, but of a more lunatically cartoony nature. You think Davendra Banhart was bizarre and baffling? Wait 'til you check this band out, from a completely different angle.
I've been back-channel conversing with other critics discontent with present affairs, more than few sounding like their damned grandfathers, and my firm insistence is that we're in a new period of the arts, in music more than anything else, that's quietly and not-so-quietly revolutionary. I can see, however, why my fellow scribes are missing so much of what's happening: their ears are old, their ways are set, and, worse, the modes of exposure for musics like this are ridiculously insufficient, even in the fantastic girth of the Net (and it's expanse is the entire problem). I see Fetch to be as riveting as Sipo's 2009 Year of the White Rose (here) but within a completely different progressive tweak, and the disc goes straight to my year's-end 20 Best of 2013 List (which will likely expand to 30 due to fierce competition among the plethora of ridiculously great CDs this year…though nothing else comes close to the sheer innovativeness of Melt-Banana's work).
In some ways as strange and unnerving as Berger Rond's brain-melting mutations of classical music (here), as schizophrenically Tex Avery-esque vocals-wise as Comus or Spires That In The Sunset Rise, and as phantasmagoric as some of the old Nonesuch electronic catalogue, M-B nonetheless elbows all that to the side with a highly idiosyncratic sound, noisy as hell but also far more highly composed than at first seems, a neverending hurricane. Now for the shock: this is a duet project, just two young Japanese musicians, one male, one female, and they even perform this material live. How in hell they can even think of accomplishing that makes me scratch my head in perplexity, but they do. Batten the hatches, nail down the children, and grab the guy wires 'cause storm gales are making their way from Japan to America, and Yako and Agata are cresting the tsunami this time. The amusing Chris Weingarten of Spin calls Melt-Banana 'bubble-gnash', 'scrape-n-soar', 'noise-punk', 'prog-core', 'sugar-rush', and probably a buncha other adjectivals, but he hasn't even scratched the surface. Neither can I. Listen, learn, and have strong sedatives to hand, both for frayed nerves and wild exuberance.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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