This sounds pretty much how you’d expect an album with the title ‘Mystery Banana’ would – that is to say, without putting it lightly, insane. The listener’s reaction to the music is somewhat accurately foreshadowed by their reaction to the aesthetic portrayed by the cover and title, or by their feelings towards the phrase, ‘Afro-Cuban meets J-Pop’. If one is of the inclination that a successful album should have clear intentions and proceed to achieve them, then this is certainly successful, fitting neatly in with Miho Wada’s already eclectic discography.
It’s what these intentions are exactly, where this album runs into its flaws. Having listened a number of times, I’m still wondering what it set out to be in the first place. The title track and opener, sounds somewhat like the instrumentals on Nick Drake’s ‘Bryter Layter’, if they were channelled through the surf guitar of Dick Dale or the 5,6,7,8s. And if that sounds like an awkward mix, that’s because it is. Fast forward through the next few tracks; one of which (12.5 Degrees) does include a rocking violin solo at the hands of Pascal Roggen – albeit over a disco-house style beat – and we arrive at Equinox (not the Coltrane one). This track, plus the ballad that follows (Eerie Night), are without a doubt the standouts of the album.
While the musicianship is solid throughout, it’s on these two tracks that you can feel the band open up and make some interesting and properly engaging music. The image of the album finally takes a backseat and something special comes out of it. This success is short lived however, by the seventh track, #4, we’re back into weird mixes of genres (flute solo over ska beats, anyone?). ‘Mystery Banana’ seems to focus so much on its off-kilter image that at times that can feel more important than the music itself.