Amigos y amigas! Welcome to the final and ultimate episode of From the Mouths of Babes, our end-of-year feature in which we hassled the great and the good of the music scene to share their thoughts and reflections with us. This year we have had record numbers of contributors (a coincidentally apt 19 of you! Massive thanks!!)…
Today’s FtMoB has a local flavour: we tracked down seven of the most intrepid musicians, promoters and deejays from Sheffield past and present and persuaded them to spill their (cool) beans to junior prose hack Oliver Porpoise Firefly.
He squeezed words from legendary avant-folk guru Conor Nutt of Sheffield supergroup Winston Macabre, DIMITRI, electro jive chieftain and band leader of solo wonk-pop outfit DIMITRI, cello maestro Ben Eckersley of haunting smoke-folk duo Captives on the Carousel, tropical innovator Alex Del Mango of psychedelic party shamans Mango Rescue Team, Chris Arnold of sizzling jape troupe Cool Beans, Hugo of sadrock purveyors of repute Dead Slow Hoot, and finally wild man of the Honey Bees Blues Club and poster designer extraordinaire Martin Bedford.
This was some conversation! Oliver kept order amongst the rabble as best as he could, deploying all the charm and wit he could muster along with occasional threats of violence, regular bribery, and sedatives dissolved in whisky.
Here’s what happened…
Oliver: Hi guys! Welcome aboard the PROLE JAZZ spaceship… This was a year of mind-expanding music, mad spiritual vibrations and whirling song dervishes. It was a festival of colour-drenched noise! Here at PROLE JAZZ we already made a list of our fave Sheffield tunes of 2019 (read all about that here and here) – what were your top hits of the year, in Sheffield and beyond?
Conor: Well like most people I live in a bubble and mine is particularly tunnelled as most of my friends are musicians whose work I love, so… that said, within my particular very limited radar of local music there have been lots of things I’ve loved this year.
Work Related Ninjary by UK Rogue State is one i’ve been caning. It’s wicked how diverse it is, from the dubby psychedelic soundscapes of the meditative Gallow Glass Fire Dance to the monsterous Sickening which lives up to its name with a large portion of infernal bassy filth and dystopian dancefloor filler Anticipation featuring the ever enigmatic Rachel E, great stuff.
Also loved Xybots album Wormhole, got some banging drum and bass action on there, Boomtang is the one for me, always gets me bouncing around.
Love shy by Copius beats feat Soul Deep and Bert Rodgers (in a similar drum and bass area but more song based) is a real catchy bastard too,and if you like that there’s an absolute tonne of fresh music from Copius beats and the whole NOFI label come out this year.(NOFI records local talent radio show on Sheffield live is ace too).
Mango Rescue Team, Captain Avery and The Cosmic Triceratops of Intergalactic Peace and K.O.G and the Zongo Brigade all released wicked new material that felt like they captured the fantastic raw energy of them as live bands really well.
Meg Furze has probably been local music discovery of the year for me, so even though I don’t know how “official” the versions are, the songs on her youtube channel send me on exquisite foggy jazz soul daydreams. She was also fantastic live.
Also been loving listening to itinerant folkadelic gutter mage Jimmy Elderflower‘s new recordings… well worth checking out, his layered playful dylanesque lyrics and meandering jazzy classical song structures are a right treat.
Ben: A constant musical highlight for me in 2019 has been the music of Vermont native Henry Jamison, providing certainly my best live moment and I *think* my favourite album of the year (deliberations are still in progress…). I first encountered his music at the end of last year in one of those incredibly rare moments when online algorithms manage to get it just right, and organised a hasty midweek scramble to London in the spring for his solitary UK live date this year. His music is quietly unassuming and yet utterly beautiful – it’s often the gentlest folk, but he can create the lushest textures and spin the most memorable melodies. His soundworld may borrow from pallettes of Sufjan Stevens and Justin Vernon, yet it’s still his own world. Lyrically, he is astonishing: clever bits of wordplay jostle amongst heartfelt soliloquies and cerebral poetry. On his sophomore album Gloria Duplex (that one that might be the year’s best) he’s turned his attention to toxic masculinity, confronting head-on the many ways he’s ashamed of his own past behaviour and the negative associations around boyhood and manhood he’s carried from his own upbringing with breathtaking and visceral honesty – yet offering hope, solutions and dreams of a better future.
DIMITRI: DIMITRI‘s collection Adverts, Love Songs & Official Soundtracks. This contained 3 adverts, 3 official soundtracks and 4 love songs. Amongst the 10 numbers, there were 0 songs that were directly about cars. This may have alienated some of the fanbase. Despite this, the release is still one of the best of this decade.
Alex: Azymuth – Demos 1973 – 1975
Chris: Howlin Ric & The Rocketeers – Waiting By The Dancefloor; Mad Apple Circus – Designer Music; The Specials – Encore; The Indecision – Give It Up; The Skints – Swimming Lessons; Too Many T’s – La Fam Ill
Hugo: I’ve been really into Magnetic, Clockwatching, Daft, Papa Les, Tall Man In Burgundy and Off the Banister by Oh Papa (so everything by Oh Papa basically) and Rowan’s Advice by Lou Terry (currently a Youtube video, if you know you know). Outside of Sheffield (although equally near and dear) in no particular order: 2020 by Richard Dawson is just amazing, Great Dad (by Great Dad), Ode to Joy by Wilco, Andromeda by Weyes Blood, Designer by Aldous Harding, bmbmbm by Black Midi, Human by Molly Sarle, Father Carpenter by Campbell Sibthorpe and many more…
Martin: Fargo Railroad Co – Under these lights; Deltanaut – Part 1; Cellar Door Moon Crow – You got this; Sieben – crumbs
Oliver: Loads of aural ecstasy chanting there! Fine recommendations lads! Whisky anyone…? OK: so how about your live picks of 2019? Which shows gave you the heebies?
Conor: Avital Raz‘s My Jerusalem, a one woman play featuring her own music, that was really special, been a fan of her tunes for a while but this gave the songs a whole different dimension. Migration Matters festival in general was brilliant.
Really enjoyed Sickboy Method at the Red Lion on Tramlines, genuinely menacing punk tablets. Captives on the Carousel were also brilliant at that gig (really dark folk lullabies with soaring vocals guitar and cello). Papa Soul were absolutely on fire at Sharrow festival this year, amazing covers of classic motown and soul in particular, but really mixed set too.
Great sharing a stage with the brilliant bands Jungle Lion, Solar Love Society and 20ft Squid blues band at Heeley festival. The several Sieben performances i’ve caught this year at the Dorothy Pax and Red Lion (now featuring electric violin, Kev) were amazing feats of dizzying sarcastic explosiveness an all. Had a fun time at Rite Tracks on the Bole Hills, always a great event, (that view)… they do a really good radio show too.
Poppers Revival‘s “yer mum and bass”trifecta of power at The Dorothy Pax absolutely tore the roof off, can’t recommend that band enough especially if you feel like a dance. Yo Dynamo totally killed the absolute shit out of it at Peace in the park with their junkcore mathfuck psychosonics, and I saw Innavibe there for the first time too, who are (for those late to the party like me) some amazing neo-soul infused garagy hiphop magnificence.
Ben: In a great year of live music, I was glad to get several opportunities to see Manchester’s rising star Chloë Foy. She has a captivating voice, wonderful songs and has surrounded herself with some brilliant musicians. She’s just returned from months of touring and I wish her every success for the next year.
Perhaps my biggest surprise, but a fantastic one, was a hungover early morning trip to see Self Esteem, the new project from former Slow Club-ber Rebecca Lucy Taylor. She was recommended to me with the observation “she has gone a little pop, though” – which proved to be the year’s greatest understatement as I joyously watched the best RnB show of my life (ok, perhaps a slight exaggeration… but in that moment it’s honestly how I felt). Unbelievably addictive melodies, a tighter than tight BV section and celebratory feminist lyrics all mean she’s going to be huge. Her album is also amazing.
DIMITRI: DIMITRI performing at Bar Demory, Paris. The French audience really appreciated the translations and loved to sing along – l’enfant c’est moi. It was meaningful to see first hand that the music of DIMITRI can ease relations between nations. As envisaged during its production.
Also, the release party for DIMITRI‘s collection Adverts, Love Songs & Official Soundtracks at Delicious Clam, Sheffield on 23rd August 2019. DIMITRI performed for 1 hour 20 minutes and covered a range of material from the arsenal; accompanied with visuals, smoke machine, hand painted portraits and outfit changes.
Alex: Rob at We Out Here Festival
Chris: The Skints at Trinity Centre, Bristol; Onipa at Eden Festival; Lizzo at Glastonbury Festival; Too Many T‘s at Thekla, Bristol; Chic at Camp Bestival; The Indecision at Yellow Arch Studios, Sheffield; Mad Apple Circus at Old Market Assembly, Bristol.
Hugo: Great Dad put on the best show in town (London town) at the end of November. I did a lot of live music seeing this year so it’s hard to pick a favourite, that Great Dad show was the most recent so I’m gonna go with that.
Martin: Fargo Railroad Co at the Greystones, 20ft Squid Blues Band and Captain Avery and the Cosmic Triceratops of Intergalactic Peace at Peace in the Park, Slim Wilson and The Swamp Brothers and CDMC at the 02.
Oliver: I gotta tell you, the year has only just begun and it feels somehow momentous. Maybe it’s the numbers, they look good together, they remind me of strong vision, of enviably powerful optometry scoring. I think we’re in a numerologically funky year myself and am looking forward to everything. How about you fellas? What are your 2020 excitements?
Conor: Creatives of all kinds coming together to create experiences and pieces of work that challenge the current media and social media narrative of polarisation and motivate us all to move in the interests of all. Collaboration, evolution, new paradigms. Continuing to be this pretentious.
Oliver: Amen! Any new projects on the boil?
Conor: Starting two new bands for 2020, one of which will be a meta-collaboration of as many of my friends and favorite musicians from Sheff as possible called Turned Up Collective, which I hope you will be a part of, don’t worry it will be the least committal band ever, just as and when folks have time.
Oliver: Yes! I will learn the jazz flute
Conor: The other is a dual vocalist electronic project called OutSound, we have an E.P ready to go which will be released for free some time early 2020, am excited to share it.
Conor is frontman and songsmith of legendary avant-folkers Winston Macabre. Catch him playing acoustic tunes and causing mischief at the Cremorne on January 29th
Ben: My anticipated highlights for 2020 start with my last great gig of 2019: another hasty trip to London for another only headline gig in the UK (American artists, come north please!!) to see another favourite, the sublime Phoebe Bridgers. She’s got a new album coming, and she took that opportunity to play it live for the first time. AND OH MY GOD IT’S ALL STILL AMAZING. No worries at all. She’s nailed it. I cannot wait to hear it on record. Slightly closer to home, I’m eagerly awaiting the live debut of London’s Minimal Animal, the new project from Nick Cox, the brain behind the much missed Screaming Maldini. He’s realised two great EPs and is promising some gigs soon – if he can capture even a tiny bit of the magic of an SM gig, it’ll still be amazing.
Ben is the cello don of Sheffield and plays with loads of bands, but in particular the wonderful folk duo Captives on the Carousel. He curates Sheffield’s Sofar sounds and is one of the two masterminds behind the totally amazing Sheffield Beatles Project.
DIMITRI: DIMITRI performing in the European nation of Portugal. Details to follow…
DIMITRI is an international man of mystery on the run from most major law enforcement agencies, including Interpol and the CIA, amongst others. His sex appeal and unusual merch have garnered him megafame in 74% of the smaller European nations.
Alex: Mango Disco is working with Yamaya an awesome Afrobeat jazz band we would like to book around Europe. We are booking their first headline show in Jan 10th next year at Hootenanny’s Brixton.
Alex Del Mango is the tropical mafioso behind sexy carnivalistas Mango Rescue Team, curates and promotes wild equatorial dance parties all across the UK under the Mango Disco moniker, is a leading light in the cowbell community, deejays internationally and is 50% responsible for the viral craze a.k.a Tropical Fitness that is sweeping the UK and decimating communities up and down the country. Catch the Mango Rescue Team at the Cremorne for their EP launch fiesta on March 14th!
Chris: Getting out to as many festivals as possible!
Chris Arnold is a TV and radio presenter, producer and DJ, and the mastermind behind the Cool Beans Roadshow.
Hugo: Recording new material, playing shows, getting better at expressing my thoughts with new punctuation (brackets).
Hugo wields guitar and pedalboard for indie giants Dead Slow Hoot.
Martin: THE CONTINUAL EXISTENCE OF THE HONEY BEE BLUES CLUB, THE DOROTHY PAX AND THE CONTINUING SUCCESS OF OUR CREATIVE FRIENDS ACROSS THE GLOBE AND GALAXIES…..and enough time to build the barricades. Praise the lord and pass the ammunition.
Martin is a promoter of gigs around Sheffield via the legendary Honey Bee Blues Club, a huge supporter of local music and awesome designer of iconic posters.