BY MARK JENKINS
More evidence that rock and EDM are not contrary forms, Melt-Banana’s Fetch fuses pop melodies, punk-metal guitars and hyper-kinetic synthbeats. In sensibility, the album is not a huge shift for the Tokyo duo, which was originally a quartet. But it’s the group’s most electronic effort, with air-raid-siren synths and overdriven percussion that Atari Teenage Riot might well envy.
The multi-fold album cover opens to reveal the full lyrics, written on tiny black script on a gray background. That makes them nearly illegible, but that’s apt, since they’re just as hard to comprehend when Yako (full name: Yasuko Onuki) sings them. The words are in English, but her high-pitched, staccato delivery makes them sound sort of like Japanese. They’re also submerged midway in the mix and sometimes multi-tracked; on “Lie Lied Lies,” it sounds as if two Yakos are yelling at each other from opposite side of the studio.
This is definitely a studio album, by the way, with elaborate programming and extensive overdubbing. Guitarist Agata (full name: Ichiro Agata) can play enough notes to pack any of the band’s short, brisk numbers, but on Fetch he adds more, both by playing multiple parts and editing the tracks.
These 12 songs run a mere 33 minutes, but cover a lot of musical and thematic territory. The opening “Candy Gun” veers from nature sounds to industrial din while maintaining child-like high spirits. “Infection Defective” includes a cantering bassline, guitar feedback, synth ostinatos that suggest a speeded-up Who’s Next and Yako’s chirped commands (“Fall back! White out! “Get back!”). The closing “Zero” opens in gagaku*-goes-glitch mode before turning into an accessible dance-pop ditty. Melt-Banana’s music is clamorous, but its noise just wants to have fun.
* gagaku: traditional Japanese imperial court music
DOWNLOAD: “Candy Gun,” “Infection Defective,” “Lie Lied Lies,” “Zero”