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Melt Yourself Down

South London's Melt Yourself Down is a flame-throwing punk-jazz party band whose music crisscrosses North African music, Afro-Latin grooves, fractured jazz-funk, electro-dub, and post-bop, all performed with a swaggering attitude. Their sound is a spiritual cousin to and update of the chaotic, 1980s post-punk-cum-jazz-funk of Rip Rig & Panic and Pigbag. Founded by saxophonist/composer/arranger Pete Wareham (Polar Bear), their rowdy 2013 self-titled debut showcased a sextet that also included saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, drummer Tom Skinner (both Sons of Kemet), bassist Ruth Goller (Let Spin), percussionist Satin Singh (Transglobal Underground), and vocalist Kushal Gaya (Zun Zun Egui). MYD may not have garnered the same press attention as many of their compatriots on London's new jazz scene did, but they remain an important, empowering influence on the scene's music. After a handful of singles and 2016's Last Evenings on Earth, the lineup shifted with saxophonist/keyboardist George Crowley and drummer Adam Betts replacing Hutchings and Skinner. After signing to Decca, they released 100% Yes in 2020 and Pray for Me I Don't Fit In, in 2022. After Acoustic Ladyland split in 2012, Wareham began exploring Egyptian, Nubian, and other North African musical styles. He included some of what he discovered in a DJ set he was performing. After seeing the positive reaction from club crowds, he decided to write and perform music in this style. He formed a band from a group of players he had worked with previously, who were up to such an ambitious task. Though the plan for the group was to be entirely instrumental, vocalist Kushal Gaya's attendance at auditions dictated the plan be changed. The band's name was chosen from a 1986 album and composition of the same title by James White and the Blacks (aka James Chance and the Contortions) on the Japanese hardcore punk label Selfish Records. Wareham wrote to Chance asking for his blessing and received it. After woodshedding for three months, MYD began playing out on Bristol's live circuit and were signed to the Leaf Label. Their self-titled debut was issued in 2013 to outstanding press reviews. A year later, MYD released Live at the New Empowering Church with Wayne Francis sitting in for Hutchings, and bassist Leon Brichard subbing for Goller. Working out their Nubian-influenced punk-jazz party anthems, MYD took a bit of a back seat to accommodate additional commitments by its members, Hutchings especially. They returned with their original lineup for their final album with the Leaf Label, 2016's Last Evenings on Earth, that garnered global acclaim. A single "Dot Dot Dot," was released in 2017. Given how busy Hutchings and Skinner were with other projects, they eventually left the band. Wareham recruited saxophonist and bandleader George Crowley and veteran drummer Adam Betts (the Heritage Orchestra) to fill their chairs. After signing to Decca in late 2018, MYD went into the studio to begin recording new music. Working with English production legends Youth and Ben Hillier, they issued a small handful of singles, including the futurist jazz-funk of "Every Single Day. The band's third full-length, 100% Yes, shifted directions a bit. While their sound remained anchored in boisterous, cross-genre party anthems, frontman Kushal Gaya put far more emphasis on lyrics. On previous recordings, he delivered economical statements that served more as chanted anthems to accompany the instrumentation. On 100% Yes, his words amounted to carefully composed topical messages. It was released in March 2020. Following its release, the group were to head out on tour, but their plans were halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, they returned to the studio to write and record what would become their fourth studio album. As a precursor to the new material, a cover of M.I.A.'s "Bucky Done Gun" was released in 2021, before the title track "Pray for Me I Don't Fit In" was issued. The album, which was produced by Ben Hillier (Blur, Nadine Shah), once again saw the group rewriting the rule book of expectations, proving that they needn't fit into any stereotypical genre pigeonholes. Pray for Me I Don't Fit In came out in early 2022.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo
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