Yasuko Onuki stands at center stage, arm stretched out towards the crowd, her flashing, handheld MIDI controller lighting up her face. After a quick glance at longtime bandmate Ichirou Agata (wearing his signature surgical mask), she emphatically presses the controller’s buttons, cuing an onslaught of drums and bass lines. The duo then rips into their fast, thrash-riff heavy, grinding sound — it's been about six years since they last took to a stage, but Melt-Banana hasn't missed a beat.
Standing near a speaker for 45 minutes during a Melt Banana set is a surefire formula for hearing loss. No exaggeration but, then again, no complaints. You don’t go to a Melt Banana show to chill out. You go to a Melt Banana show to watch Onuki vocally punch her way through a web of Agata’s shrill, thousand-times-looped-over guitar noise. That ringing in your ears post-show is like a souvenir — or a proud battle scar. Sunday night’s show at The Sinclair fit that bill.
Although Onuki and Agata are without a live drummer and bassist for this tour, the two can still put on a dynamic and wildly entertaining live set. Agata's frantic, yet somehow controlled, guitar style combines grindcore, slide, noise and some good ol’ hardcore punk into an impossible-to-curb package that fuses seamlessly with Onuki’s shrieky (in a good way) vocals. The band played through a hefty number of tracks from their new full-length album, "fetch," including “Infection Defective,” a more mid-tempo song, that still showcases Melt Banana’s intricate sound. Mosh pit patrons were beside themselves as the band segued into a string of their 10-second songs, giving the crowd just enough time to gear up before the music stopped and Onuki would let out an adorable "Thank you!"
That Melt-Banana is making, and still playing, some of the best music of their career (Yes, "fetch"is that good!) — after more than 20 years together — speaks to the transcendent quality of this duo’s noise.