The best Japanese albums of 2013: Melt-Banana, ‘Fetch’

by Ian Martin

Back in June, I picked up on minimalist psychedelic postpunk trio Extruders’ “Colors” as the album of the year so far. Six months later, it’s still right up among the very best of the year. Its carefully unwinding songs, murmured vocals and understated yet affecting melodies interspersed with delicately poised deployments of feedback and noise are as gently thrilling now as they were then. When considered alongside the band’s hypnotic live performances, “Colors” has cemented Extruders’ position as one of the indie scene’s most talked about bands of the year.

Also up there is Buddy Girl and Mechanic’s self-titled debut album with its sultry melding of Krautrock and languid desert blues; electro duo Capsule’s multilayered, experimental and quite wonderful “Caps Lock”; and the extraordinary collision of Rephlex-style ambient IDM, noise and shoegaze that is Fukuoka electronic duo Deltas’ “Float in the Light.” Albums aside, another Fukuoka band, indie supergroup Miu Mau, released the fantastic “Monochrome/Spring” double A-side; and hard-to-categorize, utterly enthralling avant-pop band Oni no Migiude stole the Rookie A Go-Go! stage at this year’s Fuji Rock Festival.

The absolute best album of the year, though, was undoubtedly Melt-Banana’s “Fetch.” The group’s signature hyperkinetic, shrieking bubblegum hardcore was still firmly in place, but from the shoegaze intro of opening track “Candy Gun” to the disco pulse in closing number “Zero,” the group (now a duo) delighted in dragging the listener into unexpected diversions. No longer needing to rely on a live drummer, they blast you with explosive flurries of beats that knock you off balance midsong, or bombard you with laser zaps of samples and delay-pedal squalls. The result is a dizzying, exuberant album that constantly keeps you on edge, never allowing you to settle into a comfort zone and that never tires of finding new ways to surprise and delight you. From the first moment until the last, “Fetch” had me grinning like a madman and in the end was an easy pick for album of the year.


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