The relentlessly prolific musicians of Planet Earth have been working overtime this January, seemingly determined to top the creative magic of 2019 with wild and inventive sounds to kick off the new decade. The releases spanned enchanted folk to noise-pop to surf jive to robot jazz: a festival of eclecticism, a microcosm of what that makes the musical underground such a vibrant and exciting galaxy to explore right now.

Without further ado: we present the PROLE JAZZ monthly round-up, with some of our favourite sound clusters of the January just past. Enjoy! 

~ Jack Avery (Cpn)

PS: follow the band name links to the artists Bandcamps, give them a follow, get on their mailing lists, buy their tunes & tees, check them out live, add them to your Spotify playlists… support underground music my friends! One Love! x

PPS: a shorter version of this article is on the Now Then App – check it out!

Painty Deplume

Squonk ~ corto.alto

The tenor sax squonk heralds a bad-ass jazz banger from the pulsing, pumping heart of the musical universe: this got the head-nodding bassline, the mad, jiving sax harmony (which sounds torn from an psychedelic trip into the North African desert), the locked-in brass, the tightly wound and technically impeccable drumming, the bonkers keys solo… This is the sound of a band on fire, the sound of jazz going apeshit in 2020, the sound of one of the best tunes of the year (already! We only just got started!). Seriously off the scale levels of transcendence here. Hats off!! Mad tune!! [CJA]


Katrina ~ Precious Metals

This is music from some crazy chase scene in a B-movie, Godzilla rampaging through 1950s Tokyo, giant ants in a black-and-white desert, alien saucers landing on Tabletop Mountain. Katrina is a swirl of relentless energy, it’s a merry-go-round of dum-cha-cha garage drums, fuzz guitar, earworm vocals and incredible organ sounds. Plucked from the quite wonderful Herpetology EP this has been on repeat all month at PROLE JAZZ HQ. [CJA]


Whisky Story Time ~ Alabaster Deplume

A plume of smoke captured in a glass jar, suffused with pale light and imbued with spirit: this is Whisky Story Time. The first single from Alabaster’s new album To Cy and Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1, a collection of instrumentals, this music is a meditation on fragility and warmth and hope. The unmistakable quavering saxophone is here, the simply fingerpicked guitar. Whisky Story Time is a quite wonderful journey through a mountain range of deft feeling, and a glimpse into the transcendental humanity of what PROLE JAZZ predicts is going to be one of the top albums of 2020. [CJA]


Cmad ~ Long Legged Creatures

I once had a dream about some green-black futurist dystopia, like I was trapped somehow inside a vintage computer screen, lost in a labyrinth of microchip and pixel. Cmad is the sound of that dream: this is avant tech-jazz, sinister and brooding and full of wild groove. The vocals are those captured from the thought-fugue of a sentient, gasping robot. The track builds and tears loose from genre, all cymbal crash and junglist bass and reverbed, shimmering guitar. One of the most fascinating and compelling tracks I have heard in a long time, a genuinely innovative and powerful piece of music. [CJA]


I was a Teenage Brexit Thwarter ~ Mzylkypop

Taiko-ed tom thumps and distorted bass roll into your earholes like a post-punk salute before the vocals appear as if emanating from a subterranean club. Murky street night some lost year in the 80s, some lost city. This is another triumph for the Mzylkpop gang, revealing a patchwork of influences. It’s a dance through all kinds of genre-bending loveliness, but what’ll bring you back isn’t the clever way this is tapestried together or even the fantastic 60s garage-rock flavoured chorus, but instead the beautifully menacing bassline and the timeliness of this dark political tune in these dark political times. [CJA]


Callous Copper ~ Chloe Foy

I first experienced the profound beauty of Chloe Foy‘s voice last year when I was on door duties at a Sofar gig as a favour for a friend. It was without doubt one of the most memorable performances I have ever seen – time stopped, the room was frozen in awe, emotion became a tangible, measurable quantity, birds fell from the sky. And we all sat, enrapt: collectively stunned and bewildered as Chloe sang simple, plaintive songs with just an acoustic guitar for company. On Callous Copper Foy conjures an orchestra to back her silken vocal and it’s a thing of enchantment and beauty. A wonderful and moving folk song from an incredible artist. [OPF]


C/Rage ~ Duck

Duck’s new single C/RAGE is a behemoth of cathartic and industrial fuzz-rock. It’s a Ginsbergian noise-howl, a pummel of drum, a grunge-bath of power chord noise, a wooze-synth banger… and possibly our favourite Duck song yet here at the PROLE JAZZ HQ. Cut from their forthcoming album There Are No Normal Conversations Anymore this is a fantastically powerful tune, a frothing song-beast. World domination looks inevitable! Go Duck! [HE]


Decades ~ Frank Birtwhistle

This is the sound of mountains of northern Spain, a fingerpicked sojourn beneath wide open skies and across boulder-strewn landscapes. Frank Birtwhistle is one of the most gifted classical guitarists in Sheffield and if Decades is anything to go by he has an ear for melody and dynamic too. It’s a tour-de-force of technique and emotion, a bird-flight of movement and feeling, a meditative musical ecosystem to be explored and marveled at. [OPF]


The Barren Mind (Demo) ~ R. Loomes

R Loomes weaves a fragile web of haunted voice and guitar in this forlorn folk lament. It’s an atmospheric and heavy weave of pensively fingerpicked chords and resonant vocal, a plea for warmth and sunshine amidst the midwinter gloom, a yearning to feel the heat-burn of open flames on bare skin, to feel the electricity of living. The Barren Mind is beautifully dour, if doom-folk is your cup of tea this will hit up your sweet spot a treat [OPF].


Robots ~ Sylken Somers

The enigmatic Sylken Somers released debut EP Prone this month, a collection of avant-soul DIY explorations. Robots is an atmospheric wonderment, all humming synth and skittering, metallic percussion with a heavily perfumed and weighty ambience, elevated by Syklen’s ethereal vocal. One to keep your eyes (and ears) on for 2020. [CJA]


Scraps ~ Shaku

Scraps is full-on joyous psych-rock with a jazzy grin and some kinda prog vibration which runs through the veins of this song like musical haemoglobin. There’s a bit of Zappa in here, some 90s American grunge (I’m hearing Spin Doctors, fucking retro man!!), some classic rock riffery: Scraps is a melting pot of fun and groove, of funk-laden drums and bouncing bass, but it’s when they let loose and the sax and guitar go wild that Shaku really hit gold. They’re about to hit the road too, catch them on their album tour in your conurbation in the next couple of weeks my friends! [OPF]


Anticipation – UK Rogue State

A track from the album Work Related Ninjary (that’s a surprisingly accessible 67 minutes of speed garage, folks), Anticipation stands out with its interesting and intelligent complexities. This track is much more housey than the rest of the album, and Rachel E’s growling echoed vocals aren’t shiny, they’re raw and they bring depth to the repetitive beats and bassline. This is workout music, smash your PB with Rachel E. [CB]


Eisenhower ~ Potpourri

Potpourri play florally scented indie with Belle and Sebastian-esque qualities. Their debut single Eisenhower is high caliber twee-pop with handclaps, cowbell aplenty, and a sax solo to boot. It feels like they’ve only been on the scene for a couple of months and already they have been feted by Radio 6; we predict this petalled mob will be making big musical waves this coming year. [HE]


Love Shy ~ Copiusbeats ft. Souldeep & Bert Rogers

The ever-prolific Copius does not disappoint this month, kicking off 2020 with new EP The Machine Vol. 5. Love Shy is a soulful drum ‘n’ bass gem and the strongest track on the collection. It’s a powerful vocal track with staccato snare, wub-wub synth and an earworm chorus and features NoFi labelmates Souldeep and Bert Rogers. Check it out! [HE]


You Know What To Do ~ Jackson Swaby & Andrew Bisset

More collaborations from Swaby. You Know What To Do is finger clicking good. Minimal vocals subsampled to frame a hypnotic beat whilst Bisset builds a fine showcase of Swaby’s talent on the guitar. Two bonus tracks similarly frame the guitar work, intricately woven through a tropical birdhouse of electronica and whispered intent. [CB]

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