Melt Banana, Ruins Alone, Hosome, Fandango

16Aug06

A month or so ago it started to get really hot in Osaka. In fact, it’s been so hot, that the other morning when I reached up to grab a banana from the shelf above the kitchen sink, I instead found myself holding a limp peel that was busy dripping its innards all over the kitchen counter. I hadn’t realized until that very moment that “melt banana” could be such a literal phrase. Later, I discovered a package of hard sweet potato candies that had managed to flow itself out all over the cupboard. What’s left behind is a pool of brown goo that looks like cockroach poison. I’ll probably have to scrape it away with a knife. In an act of breakfast desperation, I’ve begun keeping my bananas in the fridge.

On the 17th of July I headed down to Juso with a bunch of photographer-nerd friends to see Melt Banana, Ruins Alone, Hosome, and Vampilla play at Fandango. This was a show that we were all looking forward to because none of us had seen Melt Banana play live before, and everyone knows that Yoshida Tatsuya’s Ruins Alone unit is not to be missed. Also, Nakajima-san from Hosome had very kindly sent us an email and put Onaka-san and myself on the guest list, although this only turned out to mean that we got 500 yen off the entrance fee, rather than the glorious full comp that we had hoped for.

Here’s the show:

Vampilla: This band has great promise. The singer was shaven and painted white with the word “dog” written across this chest and the kanji for dog written across his back. The band featured guitar, drums, bass, keyboards, violin, and those weird keyboard instruments that you blow through like recorders that I never know the name of. One of the high points of the Vampilla set consisted of two of these instruments being played simultaneously with rough throat howls and operatic solos mixed in. There was also a nice violin-centered number that sounded like it was based on Roma music.

One-line summary: I am an opera dog, our music will drink your blood.

Hosome: I’ve seen Hosome play at Fandango before, and this time their set was just as awesome. It included sweltering guitar and keyboard action, robotic arm-pumping motions and sound activation, and ultra-tight transitions. Combining hardcore guitar lines, prog precision, random electronic loopings and noise, Hosome are part of what seems to be a newly emerging Japanese Hard Wave scene.

One-line summary: In only fifteen minutes I will your laser guitar blastoff into sugary breakfast cereal thank you.

Ruins Alone: I’ve seen Yoshida-san play as Ruins Alone at the Japanese New Music Festival, but it was a real treat to see his articulate hardcore experimentalism at work again.

One-line summary: Yoshida Tatsuya is the Cecil Taylor of hardcore.

Melt Banana: Melt Banana produced a perfectly paced rhythmic onslaught of buzzing guitar effects, solid-quick bass, and tightrope vocal energetics. Onuki Yasuko keeps her eyes flicking back and forth like some kind of stylized metronome while she sings and Agata Ichirou slashes with his guitar wearing a duct-taped medical mask. Rika Mm’ pogos joyously the entire time she plays. Although Banana is often classified as “noisecore” their shows are really more exciting than hard. No matter how angry Agata may look, concentrating and sweating behind his sterile mask, there’s nothing he can do to hide the fact that the harshest noise attack is also a delightful cascade.

One-line summary: I am your chocolate destruction.

Juso itself is an interesting area of Osaka. Known primarily for its nightlife, which mostly consists of venues directed towards “men’s entertainment,” Juso is also the home of a famous academic high school that many of my students at Osaka University seem to have attended. The photo above is of a worker from a famous takoyaki chain — perhaps out on delivery?

Onaka waits for the show to start at Fandango.

A flying orange elephant located near the entrance of Club Fandango.

Suganuma-kun, soon after the end of the show.

One of the many, many men’s clubs in Juso.

Mugi-kun has been made so happy by the Banana!

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