Melt Yourself Down is a supergroup of sorts. This, the eponymous debut, combines the talents of various London artists drawn to a punky interpretation of jazz that disdains the mannered virtuosity often associated with the genre in favor of a demented, sweaty energy. The band is led in equal parts by the dueling saxophones of Pete Wareham (Acoustic Ladyland, Polar Bear) and Shabaka Hutchings (ex of Courtney Pine’s Jazz Warriors, also of Polar Bear) and the shamanic exclamations of vocalist Kushal Gaya (Zun Zun Egui). They are backed by the necessarily agile rhythm section of Ruth Goller, Tom Skinner and Satin Singh. Prolific electronicist Leafcutter John provides idiosyncratic flourishes throughout.
None of this concoction would be described — except by a lunatic — as easy listening, but neither is it gratuitously abrasive or difficult. There is a tendency, when virtuosi gather, to make music largely for one another’s benefit, but the members manage to remember that other people are going to hear this. Opening track “Fix My Life” establishes their case nicely. The horns buzz and flurry like a cloud of wasps, the drums sound not so much played as pushed down a staircase — a compliment, in this context — but it eases periodically into a pretty recurring riff. “Tuna” is a breezy, exuberant confection that recalls —¬ not for the first or last time on this album — Ed Kuepper’s post-Saints group Laughing Clowns. The closing track, “Camel,” accomplishes the neat and rare trick of appearing coherent while sounding like it was made up as Melt Yourself Down went along.
All of this might sound like an advertisement for what would doubtless be an invigorating, if bracing, live performance. But the album itself also leaves one hoping that these disparate talents will convene, and record, again.