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DATE: Tuesday 29th October 2019
VENUE: The Bodega in Nottingham, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
The Mysterious Monopole, a last minute addition to tonight's bill, opens the evening with her self-styled "crunch 'n' scrape". She's proclaimed her music, via her Facebook page, to be posited with the genre of "noize, noise, crunch'n'scrape, electronics, ryvita". Yep, Ryvita... in fact, packs of Ryvita can be clearly seen on her table, on which also seems to reside a keyboard, sampling pad and small mixing desk. Not forgetting a generous stretch of tarpaulin beneath her table... an axiomatic clue that matters were about to get messy... well, crunchy and crumbly.

I'm intrigued before she's begun, and my intrigue is rewarded with a set that is as iconoclastically brilliant as it is eccentrically deranged. Samples and loops are set off, before The Mysterious Monopole takes to massacring Ryvita (specifically dark rye Ryvita... they sound better, apparently) in a variety of inventive ways. A mic'd up saw is used to destroy a pack (reminiscent of the moment Alan Partridge destroys his cereals outside his mobile home), in time to the samples, with crunching and scraping transformed into art. A record player at the front of the stage also sees some action, when she pulls not vinyl from a 12" sleeve; rather, Ryvita moulded in the shape of a 12" disc. This is placed on the turntable, rotated and then crunched to smithereens, while further dark and foreboding samples resonate through the PA.

Blending performance art with Foley-embellished aural intrigue, The Mysterious Monopole treads a fine line between innovative creativity and what I presume to be unintentional Vic and Bob style surrealism. Either way, it's fantastic, and Melt-Banana's Ichiro Agata seems to think so too, as he's right at the front, filming parts on his phone. And I thought Melt-Banana would be the most quirky thing I'd be witnessing this evening. Apparently not.
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Melt-Banana at The Bodega in Nottingham, UK, 29th October 2019
Photograph copyright © 2019 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
With ten UK shows already under their belts on this lengthy run, the end of October sees Melt-Banana's 2019 autumnal UK tour roll into Nottingham. Into The Bodega precisely, for a sold out gig, where the venue is rammed from back to front and side to side. And, at their advertised set time of 9pm, Yako and Agata take to the stage to commence their aurally challenging onslaught. Challenging yet exhilaratingly immersive.

A wall of sound from the off, Melt-Banana’s blend of grind, punk, experimental rock and other avant-garde divergences is loud. And I mean LOUD. They’ve certainly earnt the ‘noise rock’ tag for a reason. Disorientating at times, captivating at others, it’s a relentlessly frenetic and fast-paced assault of finely crafted noise and frantic performance spectacle that stimulates the senses like few other bands. Cacophony reigns through a challenging sonic shower of dissonant discharge, yet it somehow remains wholly palatable and invigorating. There are, of course, moments of relative calm and less musically delirious passages in their songs, but it’s generally an in-your-face, heavy strike on the senses for their hour long set tonight.

Agata works his fretboard in both a conventional riff based way and in all manner of wild manoeuvres. It’s a refreshing antithesis to clichéd guitar hero poses, where the musical abuse of his instrument is seemingly boundless. At times, it sounds like he’s playing two guitars and a bass all at once. And Yako offers up a similarly engaging spectacle. Despite singing in English, her lyrics are largely incomprehensible; chirped out with an incessant and inexhaustible passion and energy. Flailing around her space on the Bodega stage, she triggers all kinds of aural mania from her laptop and multi-coloured pad, which she wields and swings around as if conducting some kind of deranged invisible orchestra.

The crowd lap up every moment of tonight’s set, with people moshing within their own space rather than erupting into any kind of mass pit action. Melt-Banana transform The Bodega into their own aurally demented territory this evening. Refreshingly bonkers, these Japanese stalwarts, in their near three decade existence, remain a one-off. It might all seem a little hectic and frenzied to the casual listener, but for those who are happy to immerse themselves within the innovatively crafted musical chaos, it's wildly entertaining and immense fun. An hour seems to whiz by... and, to be honest, I don't think my ears could've withstood anymore, so it's kind of a relief, in one sense, when it's all over. Regardless, it’s also disappointing when their hour is up, as it’s the most fun I've had being deafened for some time. Crazily good fun!
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