There can’t be many people who don’t like a horn section. Stick a bit of brass on a track and you get motion, rich textures and timbres, warmth and depth – all of the best things about music. From marching bands to Motown, what’s not to love?
Melt Yourself Down don’t exactly have a horn section going on – and in fact they don’t use any instruments that are strictly brass – but with a pair of fearsomely played saxophones providing the melodic current of their album they achieve all of that movement and warmth. They are in essence a jazz-rock supergroup, but don’t let that give you the wrong idea. This is unpretentious music that demands dancing and speaks to the same primal senses that no doubt inspired someone to start banging sticks and rocks together however many hundreds of thousands of years ago music was invented.
The saxes are handled by classically trained jazzman Shabaka Hutchings and Pete Wareham of Acoustic Ladyland – whose bassist Ruth Goller also plays with Melt Yourself Down. The drummer is Tom Skinner, of Hello Skinny and Hutching’s other group Zed-U, and additional percussion is provided by Satin Singh, whose credits include Down To The Bone and Transglobal Underground. Producer Leafcutter John adds electronics to the mix, and vocals are yelped, gargled and spat out by Zun Zun Egui’s Kushal Gaya. That’s a hefty chunk of leftfield talent, and it actually adds up to more than the sum of its parts.
Gaya doesn’t always have a lot to do from a vocal perspective, but he’s a crucial part of Melt Yourself Down’s live impact: check out any video of them playing live to witness him dancing and jumping around like a dervish. The vocals are fragmented, and frequently take the form of simplistic repeated refrains or barely intelligible stuff that sounds like high-octane scat. It’s as though he’s caught up in the whirlwind of music, the clattering and blowing, that’s going on around him, and is occasionally compelled to insert his interjections into the mix. But these snatches of singing often bind the whole thing together, bringing a kind of earthiness to the music and turning riffs and melodies into actual songs.
Meanwhile, what drives things along is the interplay between saxophones and bass. We Are Enough showcases the way that the musicians weave in and out of each other’s spaces to greatest effect: saxes and bass play the same riff in a kind of call and response pattern, until a veritable frenzy occurs. Stretching this highly effective yet simple conceit across the length of an album involves something of a risk, and by keeping things to a tight eight tracks, Melt Yourself Down just about prevent the record from dragging. There are moments when a little more variety might be welcome – but still, who doesn’t love a horn section?
Moreover, this is at its heart a form of dance music, so some feeling of repetition can be forgiven; crucially, rhythm and soul are both present in droves. Fans of any of the bands Melt Yourself Down’s musicians have played with are likely to find much to enjoy here, but equally, lovers of Balkan brass and groups like the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble will see a crossover appeal in this frenetic noise. It’s compelling stuff; we need more musicians who are prepared to go nuts in this delightfully joyous way.