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Speak Squeak Creak: 1994; (Excite)
Cactuses Come In Flocks: 1994 (w/1999 rerelease); (Amazon), (CDNOW)
This one has quite a thrash element to it, with a lot of stop-start riffing and dynamic meters and tempos. This is a pretty straightfoward recording of the songs, with none of the studio manipulation found in later albums. There's also more (presumably-improv) noise-making bookending the songs. The last, untitled track features all the rest of the songs played simultaneously. Produced with K.K. Null (of Zeni Geva fame).
Album of early material. The first half is a live DAT recording of Melt-Banana playing a Tokyo University of Foreign Studies improvisation festival. The second half is a four-track recording with demo-quality sound; this half has embryonic versions of "Ketchup-Mess", "WE LOVE CHOCO-PA!", "I HATE IT!", and "Picnic in Panic". And between the two halves is a wacky sound-collage track, which can be thought of as an early version of Charlie's "Area 877". This album is very interesting and the improv is surprisingly entertaining, but its poor sound quality probably means that only entrenched Melt-Banana fans will want to own this one.
Scratch or Stitch: 1995; (Amazon), (CDNOW)
This one feels a little lighter (but faster) than the rest, and the songs are more sectioned than those of previous releases (e.g., there are discernible choruses). This has a lot of really great songs and Agata's guitar work is amazing. The production is kind of strange, with the vocals usually mixed high and the whole thing at a rather low volume. Also, it has the track "Eye-Q Trader" -- a John Oswald-style remixing of Melt-Banana improvisation, with a very goofy (and funny) ending. Produced with Jim O'Rourke.
Charlie: 1998; (Amazon), (CDNOW)
This one is both more punk and more experimental and loopy than the rest. The songs are more structured but a lot heavier and with a lot of sound effect manipulation. There's a lot of stuff on this album that's quite unlike the other albums but it's still very good indeed. It's also probably their first album to feel like a studio creation as opposed to a simple recording of the band. The track "Area 877" features the voices of Mr. Bungle members and other friends of the band shouting the band's name; apparently, a lot of people bought this album for that reason alone. Also, if you rewind the first track in a CD player, you'll find a secret cover song (The Damned's "Neat Neat Neat"). Produced entirely by Melt-Banana.
MxBx1998 / 13,000 Miles At Light Velocity: 1999; (Amazon), (CDNOW)
Live in studio album. The production is nice, but I wish it were an actual live album. Also, Yasuko's voice becomes more and more hoarse as this album progresses. This is Oshima's first album appearance -- his drumming is less on the jazzy polyrhythmic side and more on the blast-beat-you-to-hell side. It ends with a list of 1998 tour dates. Released on Tzadik's "New Japan" line and overseen by John Zorn.
Teeny Shiny: 2000; (Amazon), (CDNOW)
The new album. Oh, why must it be so short (around 25 minutes)? In any case, the album contains some stuff which is as close to pop music as Melt-Banana's ever gotten; but (unsurprisingly) it's pulled off with such creativity and flair that the results are as alien and novel as usual. And of course, the classic stop-start noise-core fun for which the band is best known is amply represented, albeit now dressed with studio trickery. And I should say that Oshima Watchma's drumming is very cool and it really complements the music well, dispelling my fears that Sudoh's great drumming would never be matched. The songs are all bracketed with disconnected noises and the last song has a five minute gap of silence in it. Produced entirely by Melt-Banana.
(Note to completists: I am not going to attempt a full discography. The band is just too prolific. Thank goodness the official website has taken up this challenge: http://www.parkcity.ne.jp/~mltbanan/disc_f.htm.)