In today’s end of year round up we chatted to two drummers, a saxophonist and a shamanic glitterfool from all across the galactic swirls of the cosmic jazz scene . Basically a band waiting to form! It’s a PROLE JAZZ honour to welcome Betamax Killer, iconic beatman from spacebabes Comet is Coming; Donna Thompson, rhythmatist extraordinaire and long-time collaborator with Alabaster DePlume; Nathan Daems, wild saxophonist & purveyor of ethiopique bliss rockets with Belgian heroes Black Flower, and finally Jack, head shaman of global skronk collective Captain Avery & the Cosmic Triceratops of Intergalactic Peace.
In this episode of From the Mouths of Babes, Oliver Porpoise Firefly spoke with these three exceptional Earthlings (and one slightly feral Alien) and quizzed them on 2019: their year in music.
ppssst – we made a list of our favourite tunes of Sheffield town, check out #25-#1 here and #50 – #26 here!
Oliver: Welcome, welcome! It’s a huge honour to have such legendary musicians contributing to today’s feature! And of course hi to Jack, our tea boy here at PROLE JAZZ.
Jack: Thanks Oliver… two sugars?
Oliver: Perfect mate, little bit of oat milk too please. Anyway – onto my first question… what were your top releases this year everyone?
Betamax: I really liked Live at the Crypt by Skinner, Okumu and Herbert. Such a deep connection between those musicians. The music just flows through them and they are so tasteful and musical. Also Sweet Princess by Dry Cleaning. I love this, guitar riffs with dry lyrics. Been a while since I got so excited by a punk band if you can call it that. I love how surreal the whole thing feels. Also Salami Rose Joe Lewis with her record Zdenka 2080. So great. A real concept album. Tripped out vocals over psychedelic harmonies the whole thing feels like mushrooms.
Donna: Trust in the Life-force of the Deep Mystery by The Comet is Coming, Beautiful Vinyl Hunter by Ashley Henry and Assume Form by James Blake
Nathan: Mark Ernestus Ndagga Rhythm Force‘s Yermande is a super effective and tasteful mix of electronics with high energy Senegalese percussions, and amazing vocals. The album is perfect how it is but live they stretch the pieces a lot which makes it better for a live trance effect. Crazy groove, top level melodies and a warm half acoustic half electronic sound. Can’t think of a much better combination of elements.
Jack: So many good tunes… massive shout-outs to Betamax and Nathan, both released two of my favourite albums of the year with Comet is Coming‘s Trust in the Lifeforce and Black Flower‘s Future Flora! Vula Viel‘s Do Not Be Afraid is also indelibly fantastic, a tour-de-force of idiosyncratic melodies and rhythms, with interstellar basslines. Vipertime‘s debut Shakedown was a ethio-banger as was Theon Cross‘ Fyah. An album that really got me this year was Richard Dawson‘s 2020: it’s a patchwork of tales of people living in austerity Britain, a critique of the modern mess we’re in with buckets of earworm melodies and weird guitar lines chucked in for good measure. Moving and profound and prosaic all at once.
Oliver: Yes yes yes! Fantastic choices my friends, a lot of this music has been playing in the PROLE JAZZ bunker this year. If you take a look at the mainstream I find a lot of it really unimaginative and totally lacking in risk, whereas scratch beneath the surface and there’s all this incredible, wild, transcendent music being made. For me it was a particularly strong year for live music. What were your highlights?
Donna: Taylor McFerrin at Oslo in Hackney was a great show. He played solo and was beat making live and the audience was lovely.
Nathan: Attending a show by The Gaslamp Killer in Belgium, beginning of the year. An incredible selection of new crazy music from all over the world plus he didn’t stop mentioning and spinning Black Flower tunes from all our albums!! I felt slightly overwhelmed honestly but basically very grateful for the recognition.
Jack: It was an amazing year for ludicrously mind-altering gigs, from the mosh-inducing double-sax madness of Melt Yourself Down to sonic sex beasts Yo Dynamo to rave demons Poppers Revival to electro-pop jape babes ShaSh to an absolutely gorgeous and intimate show watching Richard Dawson, who is so good I don’t even have words. Top human!
This year my band Cosmic Triceratops played some really fun shows too. The weirdest was probably the Southbank Centre. We played in the afternoon and it was billed as a family show, so I imagined a really wide age range of kids in the audience. In reality it was just mini-toddlers and their parents, so we played this unhinged glitterpunk show to all these tiny people tottering at the front of this miniature stage looking a bit blown away by all the noise and colour! We had some great dinosaur chats after the show though, kids know dinosaurs and space, way better than regular sized humans. Peace in the Park was also frenetic and joyously wild, especially Hippies! … the crowd erupted like some kind of drunken wombat into a cacophony of flailing limbs and unimpeded ecstasy, which was beautiful to be a part of. Also a total honour to play this year with Vula Viel, who are musical heroes of mine and creatively one of the most inspirational bands of Planet Earth right now.
Oliver: Finally folks, I wanna pick your brains on the shape of the shadow of tomorrow. Today is the future present of yesterday, everything is smoke rings and the sound of distant chanting. What’s gonna happen in 2020? What direction is your spirit-travel going?
Betamax: Next year I’m looking forward to hearing new music from Heliocentrics. They are one of my favourite groups and in 2019 my mum joined the group playing the Hurdy Gurdy! I think they have two albums in the pipeline.
Betamax Killer lays down exceptional beats for arguably the most pivotal and iconic band of 2019, The Comet is Coming; and also plays in loads of other awesome experimental jazz projects, not least Soccer96 and Champagne Dub.
Donna: Playing more amazing shows with Alabaster DePlume also a project with him and Joshua Idehen is gonna be kicking off so looking forward to that too. I’m also playing with Bellatrix and Genevieve Dawson too. Both amazing artists with great tunes. Working with female artists is really important to me and very empowering.
Donna Thompson drums with Alabaster DePlume’s band, and this year played shows all over the place, from Shambala festival to Austria to a paradigmatic end-of-year gig at Electrowerkz.
Nathan: A new release by Dijf Sanders. Obscure ethnic stuff mixed with electronics.
Personally i’m looking very much forward releasing a full album of oriental & psychedelic rage against the machine kind of music with my new instrumental band Echoes Of Zoo.
Nathan Daems is saxophone king for Belgian ethio-jazz legends Black Flowers, and has an exciting new instrumental project, Echoes of Zoo, to watch out for.
Jack: I have high hopes for collective spiritual/aural ascendence this year. Will Poppers Revival finally capture music on some kind of device and launch it into the song wilds of Sheffield? Tropical heroes Mango Rescue Team will celebrate their Azucar EP in March with inflatable flamingos and Cremorne-based nostalgia in spring, Jackie Moonbather is threatening to drop innovative sounds, All Girls Arson Club are rumoured to have new things up their DIY sleeves. All very exciting! Plus my friend ‘Jimmy’ is also working on his debut album and ONIPA are releasing theirs in 2020 and also freak-beans ShaSh… good times on the event horizon!
The Cosmic Triceratops have been genetically engineering all our favourite sounds aboard the Mothership, stealing noises, plagiarising classics etc and we will also send an offering of sonic love (a new EP) to Planet Earth in February, with a vinyl form to be released on doitthissen records, which I am very excited about. Gonna be psychedelic!
Captain Jack Avery is head howler, song magician and guitar bitch playing with Captain Avery & the Cosmic Triceratops of Intergalactic Peace. He writes occasionally for PROLE JAZZ and curates Sheffield’s weird folk jam Hot Wombat Sorcery Club from time to time.