It’s been a few weeks since I saw Melt-Banana at Harlow’s, and for some reason I just can’t get their set out of my mind. Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that I actually got to see Melt-Banana; sure, they’ve toured the states many times, but keep in mind that I was living in the middle of Iowa up until a year ago, not exactly a hotbed for extreme and/or experimental music. Since we’ve moved to Sacramento, I’ve already had the pleasure of seeing a handful of bands I never imagined I’d get the opportunity to see without traveling great distances (Sargeist and Ufomammut immediately spring to mind), and the Japanese duo are probably number one on the “holy shit, I can’t believe they’re actually playing where I live” list so far.
Granted, it certainly doesn’t hurt that Melt-Banana’s set that night was positively electrifying, a brash and brain-scrambling mix of punk, electronica and alt-rock that’s simply like nothing else out there. Agata coaxed torrents of noise out of his guitar that often sounded more like an alien landing than anything resembling a conventional riff, while singer Yasuko’s high-pitched chirp was the very definition of an unorthodox vocal approach, meshing perfectly with the fascinatingly off-kilter yet catchy music. In lieu of a human rhythm section, the duo was backed by computerized beats that Yasuko controlled using a handheld remote that glowed like the controls of a UFO, but in spite of this the performance felt completely organic and passionate.
Melt Banana’s music radiates an aura of joyousness that is evident on their records but is multiplied a thousand fold in the live setting; it’s like pop music from another dimension, and experiencing it in the flesh felt like riding an energy beam of pure sonic bliss to that dimension’s hyperkinetic core. I’m pretty sure I had the biggest, goofiest, most ridiculous smile on my face from the opening salvo of “Feedback Deficiency” all the way through to the final encore of “Candy Gun.” Indeed, this was without a doubt one of the most uniquely satisfying live shows I’ve ever had the privilege of witnessing.
When I lived in Iowa, I was always extremely grateful when bands I liked would deem worthy to come to town. I often wonder if I’ll lose that now that I’m living in a city that plays host to amazing shows on the regular, but I can’t even conceive of being jaded about live music when bands like Melt-Banana exist. Coming from a metal background, I often see shows being referred to as “rituals” or “attacks” but what I experienced that night can only be called a celebration.