Photography: Glyn Akroyd

Melt Yourself Down

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  • Dead Hedge Trio
Bam!Bam!Bam! @ 24 Kitchen Street 14/5/16

MELT YOURSELF DOWN stop off at Kitchen Street as part of a UK tour to promote their recently released second album Last Evenings On Earth. Again the critics have showered the ensemble – composed of luminaries from across the spectrum of modern British jazz, dance and world music (Polar Bear, Sons of Kemet, Acoustic Ladyland, Transglobal Underground) – with four- and five-star reviews. After an eight-hour diversionary road trip to get here from London, you might expect Melt Yourself Down to be a tad jaded, but it turns out they just need to release some pent-up energy as they storm into an unrelenting, physical barrage of a set.

Local jazz luminaries DEAD HEDGE TRIO play a short but sweet opening set; what it lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality. A slow, shimmering start sees Rory Ballantyne’s echoey guitar washing over Michael Metcalfe’s pattering drum breaks before evolving into a beautifully gentle Nick Branford saxophone melody. Swapping guitar for trumpet, Ballantyne underscores Brandon’s funky, honking sax before an epic building of looped trumpet builds a wall of sound evocative of Miles Davis’ Sketches Of Spain. On Driving With John, a song about a road trip to the Alps, a tense Ballantyne guitar riff plays off Brandon’s abstract sax patterns as Metcalfe builds towards a thunderous climax – must have been one hell of a trip!

I suspect Melt Yourself Down’s road trip up a choked M6 this afternoon was somewhat less exciting and they appear keen to put it behind them from the moment diminutive bass player Ruth Goller walks on stage and begins a heavy-duty solo introduction of shuddering volume. Max Hallet’s drums and Satin Singh’s percussion crash in with an Afrobeat sensibility, delivered, along with the twin saxes of Pete Wareham and George Crowley, in a punk-like attack. Vocalist Kushal Gaya enters the fray in a whirlwind of chanted vocals and intense movement, hand extended towards the crowd. The first song squeals to a halt but, before the audience have time to applaud, they put the pedal back to the metal and leave tyre marks all over the Kitchen Street highway as the second song veers quickly out of sight. Wareham, Crowley and Gaya are amongst the audience almost immediately, bobbing and weaving their way amongst a partisan crowd who seem more than happy to cheer them on.

So, whereas I expect consummate musicianship (which they deliver) I am somewhat taken aback by the ferocity and abandon of their approach. I must admit, a few songs in, I find myself hankering after a little change of tempo, a bit of a breather, but the crowd patently do not, leaping, arms aloft and repeating Gaya’s chanted tribal calls with gusto.

Goller’s massive, dubby bass continues to anchor proceedings while Hallett and Singh’s double drum Afrobeat barrage propels things along. Up front Wareham and Crowley have all kinds of fun blowing the bejesus out of their horns with hints of two-tone and eastern European klezmer in the mix. Their laughter as they pogo around the stage bouncing off other band members is infectious, as are Gaya’s perpetual-motion exhortations. The crowd continue to bounce off the walls during a furious and joyfully received encore which brings a wham-bam-thank-you-mam set of intense virtuosity to a close.

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