LADYBIRDS & GENTLEFOLK! Roll Up!! Roll Up!!
February and March have passed us by in a blistering storm of music and energy. Here at PROLE JAZZ our ambition of monthly music roundups were happily thwarted by a street-food sojourn to southeast Asia which derailed any journalistic activity in February. 75% of the crew decamped to a white sand paradise of nasi goreng, durian shakes, duck entrails and soft-shelled crab, returning with tales of shark encounters and beach jams with Nirvana-loving locals… and having written precious few words on the subject of music. Our esteemed Editor-In-Chief was not best pleased…
And so upon arriving back in the land of hills we instructed Prose Pariah & Putative Man of Textual Significance Henrik Endor to compose a few words reflecting upon the hot and deranged music releases of spring from the epicentre of all things wonderful, the city of Sheffield. Here’s what he wrote:
(~ …pssst! Wanna listen while you read?? We made a handy Spotify playlist of our fave Sheffield tracks of 2019 so far including new ones from Feb & March which we’ll continue to update through the year… follow the link HERE or click on the box below)
Henrik: Sheffield must lie on a magical ley line of creativity: these past two months the musical output from the city has continued to explode in all directions in a glorious gleam-cloud of ecstatic sound. Releases have been coming thick and fast from every corner of the musical spectrum, from quirky indie to jump up afro-hop to celestial jazz to wild junglist bangers to fragile ballads. It’s been a deluge of earhole treasures: here are our highlights!
February blasted into existence with the long-awaited arrival of Afro-Fusionist Shamans K.O.G and the Zongo Brigade’s debut album, Wahala Wahala. This crew has honed its sound over years of high-energy festival shows and their LP is an ecstatic, sunshine-drenched earworm melding of West African infused guitar lines, incandescent brass and the instantly recognisable vocals of local legends Kweku Of Ghana and Franz Von.
K.O.G also lent vocals to acid-jazz afrobeat revivalists Nubiyan Twist, who put out their sophomore album Jungle Run also in February. Jungle Run is a technically accomplished slice of lush neo-soul that really gets going when the ‘Twist eschew their more delicate, polished moments for the raw power of more afro-influenced tracks. Big up!
Following on from January’s Belief, Sheffield Rappcats MOAN dropped an EP of beautifully poised conscious hiphop, Finding Home, a collection of beat-heavy homegrown stories, a shout-out to the people struggling to keep their heads above water in Theresa May’s austerity Britain. With wonderfully sparse but effective production and on-point lyrics which seamlessly flow from comic to thoughtful to angry, MOAN spit rhymes about the modern ills and pitfalls of life in 2019. Classic stuff from Sheffield’s new beat poet gurus! Check your heads!
Electro-pop crooners Them Sardines got all dreamy and slinky with their reverb-drenched 80s flavoured EP Genuine Leather. Joey Mojito’s husky monotone rides languidly atop A-ha synths and programmed drums to create a stylistic powerhouse of supreme retro. It’s a sex den joyride, a neo-pop glow-fi classic, a robot daydream, a musical seduction. C’est chouette!
Fast-forward a decade and you wouldn’t be all that surprised to find Liminal (the new EP from indie power-pop heroes Lofter) all over the radio, blasting out of car stereos and providing a soundtrack for the summer of some long lost year in the mid-90s. It’s full to the brim of joyous anthems and thoughtful ballads. Despite being just 4 tracks long this ebullient and earnest collection showcases the impressive song-writing chops of singer Ant, backed by soft-touch congo percussion and full of strong vocal harmonies and sublime melodies. It’s like 1994 never actually ended!
Indie stalwarts Mr Ben & the Bens punctuated their ongoing UK tour with jaunty single Nova Scotia, a catchy jangle-fest of whimsy with a fantastic chorus and ornithological lyrics. It’s like they created a lovechild from the melodic gametes of Pavement and Belle & Sebastian, a slightly zany summer babe with a sunny disposition and a whacky sense of humour. What’s more, it’s available on limited 7″ vinyl (swoon) and there are only 25 left (argh!). PROLE JAZZ has high hopes of a full album from this crew soon…
Sheffield’s growing cosmic scene produced some insane numbers this month. Rave-jazz astronauts of groove Beyond Albedo launched their cracking new single Arrival, a hi-tech retrofuturist jam teleported to your quantum earholes from a distant solar system. The lilting sax and spacey synth will lift you up to the stratosphere, it’s a soundtrack from an alien kingdom, a hypnotic and propulsive opium swoon of a song. Prepare for blast off, extraterrestrial hipsters! This gang gonna light you up!
In Big News darkside drum ‘n’ bass android duo Xybots released much anticipated debut album Wormhole, a step-up collection of absolute junglist bangers guaranteed to induce immediate euphoric skanking in whomever has the distinct pleasure to hear this wild and joyous sound. Get your hands on their vinyl at Boo Wax records amongst other places, or hang on for their digital release in April (Ed’s Note: this just happened!! No more waiting!!).
Rather mysteriously Before Breakfast’s entire back catalogue has vanished from Spotify (presumably not by accident – the corridors and water coolers at PROLE JAZZ HQ are abuzz with speculation…). Perhaps in recompense they reissued 2017’s gorgeous Body in March, a sublime song held aloft by the willowed voice of Gina Walters and the subtle and clear production of the prodigiously talented Nicholas Alexander. It builds into a soaring epiphany of choral voices and cello notes and programmed beats, wonderful stuff. We’ve heard whisperings of new releases on the horizon from BB, watch this space…
More recently tantalising folkstress Rhiannon Scutt launched Stevie, an acoustic paean to Fleetwood Mac’s legendary lead vocalist Stevie Nicks. It’s a great single, with Rhiannon’s distinctive voice riding atop a wave of slide guitar, a slice of melodic loveliness which is hopefully a sign of more of this kind of thing from a rapidly ascending musical star of Sheffield.
All Girls Arson Club burst onto the Sheffield DIY indie scene this spring with their jubilantly whimsical collection of garage-rock ditties Dark Fruits. It’s joyfully pared down 3-chord alt-pop, home-grown Sheffield anti-folk with lyrics about dogs and playgrounds and replete with poppadum metaphors. Imagine an English Courtney Barnett joining an English Mouldy Peaches and you’re getting close: it’s quirky and melodic punk-grunge that stands as proof that a couple of power chords and an awesome tune is really all you need to craft a great song (or 5 great songs in the case of AGAC!).
In joint first place for the most productive Sheffield musician this spring we have drummer incroyable Saz who appears on both Beyond Albedo’s Arrival and Rhiannon Scutt’s Stevie and Mike from Xybots and Ill Tribe. Congrats Saz and Mike! You both win a PROLE JAZZ high 5!! Mike laid down keys for Ill Tribe who released the experimental blues wonderment of Sunny Days, a beautifully produced track from the No-Fi stable addressing the climate crisis. Check out the juxtaposition between the disturbing Donald Trump samples and Bongo Bert ‘s characteristic blues-growl vocal. Lovely stuff!
Coco Don’t unfurled their debut single Go Go Go in early April and it’s a mesmerisingly gorgeous slab of psych-pop. The drums reference Spirit in the Sky, the distorted guitars pitch and swirl, it’s Norman Greenbaum meets Placebo meets Garbage. All very intriguing from this new fresh musical gang; we look forward to more!
Lastly but not leastly, curator of Sheffield’s finest lo-fi oddball Lou Terry dropped Week of Cows, an apparent follow up to last year’s Week of Bees. It’s a distinctly bedroom affair: there’s something almost Daniel Johnson about all this, it’s a zoo-land of surrealist exploration, a nullity of galaxies, a collection of noises reminiscent at times of the mighty Guided By Voices. My guess is that this is musical marmite, you’ll either love it or hate it. And the only way to know for sure is to have a taste. Gwaan.
~ Henrik Endor
PROLE JAZZ: Thanks Henrik! Nice round up lad!
Well it’s certainly pretty easy to forget that there is a musical world outside of the city limits, living as many of us are in the midst of a cauldron of such creative and musical power. Under a modicum of pressure though, PROLE JAZZ accepts that there is, and that in fact the music from this other world is pretty fucking incredible too. Keep your eyes peeled folks, our very own celestial heretic Captain Jack Avery has promised to report on the recent sonic goings on outside of the city limits very soon…
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P.P.S. Music-maker? Poet? Gonzo Journalist? Wanna get involved/send us some tunes to listen to? Drop the Captain a message: firstname.lastname@example.org
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