Nick Bollinger mulls over the jazz-African-electronic hybrid of London-based band Melt Yourself Down.
As anyone who has ever experienced WOMAD can tell you, the urge to combine electronic dance music with the indigenous sounds of just about anywhere is just too much for some to resist. Whether it is a good idea or not is another thing. Often the results are cacophonous, other times offensively bland. And – very occasionally – some genuinely exciting synthesis occurs. This is one such occasion.
Melt Yourself Down is a London septet that have been around for the past four years. They were formed by saxophonist Pete Wareham, who had played in progressive jazz groups Polar Bear and Acoustic Ladyland.
The second album from Melt Yourself Down is a rowdy blast of rhythm and noise that derives a lot of its melodic and rhythmic drive from Wareham’s saxophone lines, which lean heavily on the modes and scales of North Africa.
At times you could almost have stepped into some sort of Moroccan trance ritual. But then there are the vocals, which are a fusion in themselves. Singer Kushal Gaya originally comes from Mauritius, which has its own traditions of trance-inducing music, but there’s something about his performance that’s also very London: a punk, aggressively in-you-face quality combined with a piercing tone that – even through a Mauritian accent - makes me think of John Lydon in his Public Image prime.
Gaya’s brief in this band is clearly to get the audience excited. His voice seems to have only two settings: off and full-throttle. There are moments here where he’s practically hyperventilating. But there’s excitement in the rhythms as well, which are propulsive and energetic even when they come in unusual multiples of nine in a track like ‘Jump The Fire’.
For all their anarchic sonics, Melt Yourself Down have tight arrangements. There are verses and choruses and parts where everything comes together – horns, electronics, drums and Gaya’s wild, incantatory vocals. But jazzer that he is, Wareham also leaves room for spontaneity, and some of the most rousing moments are when he or fellow saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings go out onto that knife-edge of improvisation.
The title Last Evenings On Earth has a faintly apocalyptic ring to it, and so does the music. But if Melt Yourself Down are the house band for the end of the world, then one thing’s for sure, they’ll be going down partying.
Songs featured: Dot To Dot, Yazzan Dayra, The God of You, Body Parts, Jump The Fire, Bharat Mata, Listen Out.
Last Evenings On Earth is available on The Leaf Records.