Writer Tabitha Green / Photographer Ewan Williamson
Following Tokyo noise rock duo Melt-Banana’s first Peel Session in late 1999, John Peel described the performance as “Just mesmerising, absolutely astonishing.” As I witness the pair in action at a packed Hare and Hounds, I am inclined to agree with Peel’s sentiment.
Yasuko Onuki and Ichirou Agata take to the stage flanked by Nintendo-esque gaming sound effects (fitting, as the colourful remote Onuki clutches rather resembles a 90s console), the air in the room zaps with anticipation. Mesmerised I certainly am, as is the rest of the crowd.
The start of the set is sudden – I am blasted by a wall of noise courtesy of Agata’s ferocious guitar playing. He has multiple pedalboards and amplifiers which he utilises skillfully, creating transcendental sounds the likes of which I have not heard before. Onuki soon joins in with yelping, high-pitched vocals and sweeping arm movements that make her captivating to watch.
Motion is crucial to the performance – Onuki’s remote, which she uses to drive the rhythm, seems to respond to her flailing arms with sweeping sounds that aren’t at all out of place above the purposeful but still somehow erratic drum beats. As the night progresses, I am struck by how the energy Melt-Banana brought to the start of their set doesn’t dwindle at all.
The music has such pace that it feels as if I’m lagging behind at times. I wonder if any members of the frenzied mosh pit find themselves experiencing whiplash.
Said mosh pit is a highlight of the night – I cannot help but smile as I watch two grinning punks join hands and spin with a speed that rivals Agata’s shredding. The pair runs into some technical difficulties about halfway through the set, but they are quickly resolved and have little impact on the performance as a whole.
“We haven’t played in a while so we forgot many things”, Onuki laughs charmingly. The duo then proceed to play a series of their famous “short songs”, which are hilarious with their abrupt cut-offs and solemn introductions. The short songs end with “Dog Song”, which fully amuses me as Onuki frantically yaps away.
Melt-Banana’s return to Hare and Hounds is a joyous and memorable occasion. I thoroughly recommend catching them next time they’re in town.