Japanese ‘noise rock’ band hits Seoul

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Japanese ‘noise rock’ band hits Seoul

Making headlines in Korea this week were the declassified details of the Korea-Japan Treaty in 1965, with local newspapers running front-page photographs of Koreans burning Japanese national flags on the street, asking for more compensation.
At the same time, 2005 is the “Korea-Japan Friendship” year, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations. But this doesn’t phase young Koreans and Japanese, who will see performances of the Tokyo-based band Melt-Banana today and tomorrow at hip clubs near Hongik University.
The three members, Yasuko, Agata and Rika, along with session drummer Terada, do not really care either, as they repeatedly exclaimed “Delicious!” while eating their first Korean meal, doenjang jjikae, yesterday.
Melt-Banana, formed about 10 years ago, has been described as “chaos in order” for their style, a cross between hardcore noise and pop. Frontwoman vocalist Yasuko’s screeching voice, spitting out lyrics rather than singing, and bassist Rika and guitarist Agata’s blasting riffs have produced a unique style with songs as short as five seconds and as long as 10 minutes.
Their breakthrough came when the legendary British DJ John Peel of the BBC came across the band and promoted their music on his show. The band started to earn worldwide acclaim amid well-received tours in the United States and Europe.
“We play music because there’s no music yet in the world we want to hear,” Yasuko said yesterday. When it comes to lyrics, the band simply opens an English dictionary, finds words whose pronunciations they like, and then tries to turn them into meaningful lyrics. Then they add their typical screeching sound, which first-time listeners may call noise, to produce their style. It doesn’t quite sound like pop, yet that’s how they define their music.
The pursuit of pop also gave the band its name. When the members gathered around to brainstorm, one member said, “Talk about pop, you can’t miss pop art.” Then another said, “That reminds me of Andy Warhol.” Then members said almost in unison: “Then it’s banana!” Yet they still felt something was missing. So they came up with “melt,” “to have some fun,” according to Yasuko, who said her favorite pop artists include Destiny’s Child.
After their Seoul performances, their first in Asia outside Japan, Melt-Banana will return home to perform, and then play gigs in the United States in March.

by Chun Su-jin

Melt-Banana performs today at Club DGBD and at Club AURA tomorrow. Admission to today’s show is 20,000 won ($19), including two drinks, and 15,000 won (with one free drink) tomorrow. For more information, visit the band’s Web site, www.parkcity.ne.jp/mltbanan, partly available in English.
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