Melt Yourself Down: Pray For Me I Don’t Fit In

British combo suggests Fela Kuti crossed with Led Zeppelin or early rocking Elvis merged with Peter Brötzmann

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From the opening of the title track, Ruth Goller’s thunderous fuzz-bass guitar heralds the stratospheric levels of energy exuded by this fourth studio album from Melt Yourself Down. As the chanting ensemble voices kick-in the listener is truly hooked. Goller’s bass lines throughout are a million miles from her reflective, labyrinthine debut solo album Skylla (Vula Viel Records, 2021) but she cements this visceral album together.

Since MYD were signed to Universal’s Decca label two years ago – resulting in 2020’s ebullient 100% Yes – rather than tone down the group has turned up the heat. As with previous albums, MYD’s influences are many and varied but principally stem from saxophonist and leader Pete Wareham’s fascination with North African and Afrobeat music. It’s impossible to describe this vibe adequately; maybe think Fela Kuti crossed with Led Zeppelin or early rocking Elvis merged with Peter Brötzmann. But there are, of course, more sub-genres infiltrating this unique admixture of sound including but not limited to club, dub, rap, punk, funk, techno, rock and not least, jazz.

Some might argue that MYD is not a jazz band, but the elegiac harmonic arrangements of, say, All We Have elevate the band’s oeuvre into a different category, well away from pop. In terms of their emotional heft Kushal Gaya’s high-octane vocals frequently channel those of Joy Division’s late frontman Ian Curtis, but on Sunset Flip they’re strangely reminiscent of David Bowie at his most acerbic. Goller’s hypnotically chiming ostinato bass line on I Got Time underpins the song, whilst the twin saxes positively consolidate it.

If nothing else, it’s obvious that the vocals play a major role here, complemented by Wareham’s tenor taking the part of a rock lead guitar. However, the twinning of saxes, Wareham’s with George Crowley’s tenor, is nothing new. MYD have been doing this since their eponymous debut album (Leaf, 2013) when Wareham’s co-saxophonist was Shabaka Hutchings. Drumming duties then were undertaken by Tom Skinner who, with Hutchings, now comprise half of Sons Of Kemet. But Wareham (Acoustic Ladyland, Polar Bear), Goller (Acoustic Ladyland, Let Spin) and Gaya have formed MYD’s primary power engine from the off.

Whilst fans will surely agree Pray for Me I Don’t Fit In is an impressive consolidation of MYD’s track record to date, for the uninitiated witnessing them live would undoubtedly be a life-changing experience, as attested by their one non-studio album Live At The New Empowering Church (Leaf, 2014). They may also be the only extant jazz-related band to have released around a dozen singles in the past decade. But in fairness probably all the tracks on this latest album are worthy single contenders. It’s that good.

Discography
Pray For Me I Don’t Fit In; Boots Of Leather; For Real; Nightsiren; All We Have; Fun Fun Fun; Balance; Sunset Flip; Ghost On The Run; I Got Time (41.43)
Pete Wareham (ts, bar, kyb, f, v); Kushal Gaya (v, elg); George Crowley (ts, bcl, v); Ruth Goller (elb); Adam Betts (d, v); Zands Duggan (pc, v); Ben Hillier, Quincy Wareham, Tallulah Gill, Tiger Wareham (v). London, 2020-2021.
Decca 3826557 / 3826558 (LP)