Anyone still feeling residual disappointment over the split of Zun Zun Egui a year ago – and disappointment over the breakup of such a fine band would be well justified – might find consolation in this, the second album from Melt Yourself Down, for the two bands are linked by the energetic and unmistakable presence of frontman Kushal Gaya. Zun Zun Egui’s split was apparently driven partly by a desire to focus on other projects, so we might deduce that the experience of making Melt Yourself Down’s excellent debut album, released in 2013, has convinced Gaya to devote his attention to this band.
With Last Evenings On Earth there’s certainly a sense of greater focus. The debut album was rich in rhythm and riffs, and brought to life by a jazz-punk attitude, but it felt at times as though its tracks had been built out of sketches or jams. In contrast, those included here feel as though they have been conceived of as complete songs from the outset. Gaya’s singing, sometimes in English, sometimes Creole, is more prominent. His vocals on the debut album were largely limited to dramatic yelps and scattered utterances, but here he provides more song-like lyrics. Evidently his vocals are still more about creating atmosphere and tone than making world-changing statements – Body Parts, in which he shouts, “Tell me what you’re eating / How much are you breathing” is about as profound as it gets – but his singing does have more of an impact.
As before, the music is driven by saxophone riffs, but if anything it’s even more rhythmic than Melt Yourself Down’s highly rhythmic debut, and it’s funkier too, while maintaining a pleasing oddity. Big Children is a case in point: the track starts with a build-up of avant garde noises, but then turns into a solid funk number, all of its motion coiled up in the bassline. Communication is one of the more leftfield songs, and one of the most intense, almost like hardcore punk with saxophones.
A sense of growing confidence and maturity can be detected in experimentation with time signatures. The God Of You is a 7/8 shuffle, while Jump The Wire is in 9/8 (maybe the missing beat from the former song somehow migrated to the other?). This doesn’t feel like pretentious messing around though, and Jump the Wire is particular proof of this: it’s the most electronic song here, but the unorthodox time signature serves to distance it from the straightforward rhythm of electronic dance music.
Nevertheless, this is definitely danceable, and it’s made to feel quite primal by its big blares of saxophone. The sax is the meat here, while the synth that bubbles along underneath is seasoning: important but not the main source of nutrition. But if we are to continue this (potentially unwise) analogy, the real vitamins are to be found in the drumming. This is an album that’s all about rhythm and energy, so it couldn’t really be any other way. Sometimes the drum and percussion patterns provide an understated backdrop, as in jazz, but often they are extremely dense and impossible to sideline as mere timekeeping.
As was the case with Zun Zun Egui, Melt Yourself Down respond to varied influences: bebop, African music, no wave, dubstep to name but a few. Such a musical melting pot can easily turn into something inaccessible and lifeless, but that’s never the case here. Skill, knowledge and passion clearly inform what this band do, but what comes across most strongly is a sense of joy, and that makes it difficult to feel anything other than wholly engaged as a listener.