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:: Melt Banana :: Narcosis ::
31 October 2003 / Satan's Hollow / Manchester
By Dave Himelfield

A confused and unorthodox atmosphere prevails tonight. There’s been a last minute change of venue. Its nearly 8pm and Melt Banana are supposed to be onstage except they haven’t even turned up yet. The circular diabolic sanctum of Satan’s Hollow starts to fill with baggy trouser and Jacob Marley chain-wearing adolescents present for the Halloween mosh club that’s being delayed by the promise of the nastiest export from Japan’s since whaling. Still there’s no sign of them. Meatloaf abounds from the PA and the whole world (well…night club, at least) is in disorder.

For the time being we have Narcosis to deal with. Now most forms of extreme metal conjure embarrassing images of fat blokes with wispy goatees and straggly ponytails dressed in hideous clothing whose only sexual encounters tend to have been with family pets, but this is different. There is a large bearded screaming gentleman, but the rest of the band appears relatively sober and clean cut. You may even consider purchasing a second-hand television from them. Similarly most death metal/grindcore is most often an embarrassingly tuneless and untalented blunt hammer blow to the nose but again, this seems different. Narcosis’ rotund frontman could be screaming what he had for tea last night and the drums albeit technically spot on could be replaced by a pneumatic drill to little detriment but it all seems to work in light of a display of ideas that rarely reside in such extreme music. Riffs while heavier than a brontosaurus’ faecal deposit, brim with petulant noise and atonality. Tempos shift from polar opposites without predictability. Structure is there but in reshuffled form. There’s even at one point, (horror of horrors!) a hint of melody! For once, intellect has sharpened the brawn into something effective and worthy of your attention. Seldom has such a foul experience been so enjoyable.

And finally they’re here to inject a whole world of chaos into some already jumbled proceedings. Where Melt Banana come from sonically and aesthetically will astound you. To look at, the prospect is disturbing yet most intriguing. Picture a dainty bassist who’s in danger of being dwarfed by her instrument, a singer whose stare could pierce sheet steel at 70 yards and a guitarist whose face is obscured by gaffer-tape and a surgical mask. Their American drummer it appears, probably doubles up as their translator. None of his band mates seem to be capable of English that’s more complicated than “hello” or “thank you”, furthering the likelihood of Melt Banana’s development on the margins.

We pray to the great Shinto gods that Melt Banana were able to bloom in complete isolation. While taking some heed from punk and possibly techno influences, comparisons may only be made by default. There is nothing in the world today that sounds anything like this. Strident mechanical bass lines spring off the walls creating an almost nauseous tension. Something unwell is about to blow up that you will not be prepared for. And suddenly everything comes crashing in. Despite a traditional guitar, bass, drums, vocals set up, Melt Banana sound closer to gabba than anything with six strings in. Warp-speed syncopated beats shift the proceedings into truly frenzied territory and while the pace is relentless the number of odd textures and sounds crammed in is unsurpassed. To compliment such extreme backing one would usually expect the usual dose of earnest screaming and growling. That would be by the book and predictable, something Melt Banana thankfully are not. Even if they had grown in the shadows of Black Flag and Minor Threat, they only took what they deemed as the necessary pulp. Anything that became expected was disguarded by the wayside. Singer Yasuko delivers incoherent quasi-English in sharp, hi-pitched, 500 syllable-a-minute Nippon-inflected blasts. To say the combination is gloriously curve-balled is something of an understatement. Likewise Agata’s Gibson makes Tom Morello’s telecaster sound like David Gray’s acoustic. Fuck the Spartan use of subtle effects and the contrived use of Sonic Youth-lite noise When the masked one isn’t providing meaty power chord weight to the proceedings, he’s tap-dancing on his expression pedal creating pitch-shifting belches, treble-frenzy portamento and stutters like a scratched CD.

Melt Banana conclude the set with a classic rendition of the er…classic “Spathic”, a cyber-charged Damned cover and a new even more leftfield piece that exceeds our initial hope. Melt Banana are so unrelenting, and far into the periphery that they make just about any other band look so downright ordinary. Tonight’s performance had me reeling and questioning the very nature in which music is made. Gig of the year by a country mile.

Melt Banana Website

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