Disembark! is out today on Luminous. It’s the first duo release from Dee Byrne and me – I’m so happy to see it out there after the release (and a tour that was supposed to happen earlier this year) got derailed by the pandemic. It’s available now as a digital album, the thirteenth release on the label, with amazing cover artwork by Dee. I hope you enjoy the music! And keep an eye on Luminous over the course of this Autumn, as we have a few more things up our sleeves….
With all live music off for a while yet, I’m working on a new project that looks back at the gigs I’ve been a part of over the past few years. My hard drives are full of audio from past concerts, and in normal times I hardly ever had time to listen to them. In lockdown, or at least in the rare moments that I’m able to focus on working at something, there’s time to have a good dig around in the files and listen back to some sets. I’ve set up a new Bandcamp site that will act as a kind of scrapbook of old and raw live recordings from my archive. This will be a slow burner, but the first two recordings are up now – a solo set and a duo set with Seth Bennett, both from 2016. All the music on this site will be ‘name your price’, so there’s the option to pay on the door for these old gigs. The money will be split equally between the musicians on the recording.
As you may be aware of from seeing a billion social media posts, Bandcamp are giving artists some extra support during the pandemic by waiving their commission on the first Friday of the month in May, June and July. We have something in the pipeline at Luminous HQ for the July one, so keep an eye out for that. And as today is May 1st, I thought I’d pull together a few recommendations of music to check out and support some artists close to my heart…
Article XI – Live In Newcastle (Discus) / Anton Hunter – LUME Kestrel Online
I’m proud to be a member of Anton’s large ensemble, and it’s great to see a second release out there. This live album was recorded on our double bill large ensemble tour in 2017, at the mighty Bridge Hotel in Newcastle for Jazz North East. Featuring two previously unrecorded Anton Hunter originals! Anton is also releasing a brand new track TODAY, made in lockdown, with lots of us playing and a kestrel drawing by me…
Bathing Trio – Stretford – Bromley-by-Bow – Peckham
The excellent trio of Sam Andreae, Otto Willberg and David Birchall are making tracks together live over the interwebs. This is one of several improvised lockdown sets they’ve published so far…
Deemer – Live at the Vortex (Luminous)
Dee and Merijn are currently working on something new for Luminous, but check out this live set from 2016 if you haven’t already.
Kodian Trio – Live In Leeds (Raw Tonk)
The latest slice of Kodian Trio goodness on Raw Tonk Records, recorded by Chris Sharkey at LS6 Cafe.
Ti/om – The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Madwort Records)
This is a pretty special release, several years in the making. Ti/om went to the Isle of Eigg in 2016, staying in a bothy together for a week and recording these pieces. It’s lovely to see them surfacing now on Madwort Records.
Johnny Hunter – Pale Blue Dot (Northern Contemporary)
A four movement sextet suite by Johnny Hunter, recorded at the Lescar in Sheffield. A gig I wished I could have attended! The fourth release on the excellent Northern Contemporary label.
It’s a very challenging time for music venues right now for obvious reasons, and they need our support if we are able. Hundred Years Gallery and the Vortex both have fundraiser Bandcamp sites, Martin Clarke’s oem label is raising money for Arch 1, and IKLECTIK has a page of fundraising music on its website. Here are some starting points…
Off Bandcamp, you could always become a digital member of Cafe Oto and support them while treating yourself to a year of amazing downloads.
I’m finding it hard to engage with the online world, and with everything that’s going on around us in the real world I’m struggling to even think about being creative. We all have to do what we do to get through this! I hope you find some sounds you love in this post, and that we can all be back out there listening to and playing live music again soon.
Earlier today (Sunday 30th September) I was a guest on Ivor Kallin’s Ambrosia Rasputin Show on Resonance FM. It was a lot of fun chatting to Ivor and playing some tracks by friends and collaborators as well as some of my own, so I thought I’d post links here to the music I played. You can find the relevant albums on Bandcamp by clicking through on the embeds below. The whole show is available to listen to on Mixcloud, and also features two duo improvisations from Ivor (on viola) and me (on baritone sax) live in the studio.
We opened with a couple of my own pieces:
Then I played ‘Bone Machine’ by the Pixies! A classic track that I don’t need to link to here…
Next up was some Entropi:
And then some Article XI:
And a track from the new album by Tom Ward and Adam Fairhall, the first release on Madwort Records:
To round things off I played Dee Byrne’s composition for Saxoctopus:
Big thanks to Ivor for inviting me! It was a lovely way to spend a Sunday lunchtime.
The third Sloth Racket studio album ‘A Glorious Monster’ is available to pre-order from Luminous! Recorded last November in Manchester, it was mixed and mastered by Alex Bonney at the beginning of this year and I’m really happy with how it sounds. Listen to a preview track and order your copy over at the Luminous Bandcamp site:
The CD edition of the album comes in a hand-printed sleeve as ever (this year I’ve been experimenting with neon ink!), and we also have super exciting 2018 Sloth Racket t-shirts on sale in either lime or charcoal, as seen in the ultra-realistic collage below:
Orders will ship out to arrive on release day, 4th June, but if you want to get your hands on one before then and you live near London, Bath, Manchester, Derby, York or Durham, they will be on sale from the merch table at all of our tour gigs. We’d love to see you there!
Apologies…..this post demanded all caps. I’ve been working on this for a LONG time, so I’m pretty ecstatic to announce that Sloth Racket will hit the road once again this year with support from Arts Council England! It’s an eight date tour taking in some new places and revisiting some familiar sloth haunts, to celebrate the release of our third studio album ‘A Glorious Monster’ on Luminous this June.
Head to the dedicated tour page on the Sloths website for all the info and to buy advance tickets…
Reviews of the Favourite Animals album have been appearing since its release in December. Have a listen as you peruse what the critics had to say below…
In the March issue of the Wire magazine was a half-page triple review from Stewart Smith of the Favourite Animals and Article XI albums, plus Sloth Racket’s live album ‘See The Looks On The Faces’. Favourite Animals are described as as ‘lurching between riff and abstraction’, ‘maintain[ing] an elegant balance between emergent melody and the wilder activity at its fringes’…
Also in print was a great Jazzwise review from Thomas Rees, who writes that the ‘gritty and anarchic’ Favourite Animals album ‘confirms Roberts’ talent as a composer and Luminous as a label to watch’.
Excitingly, Dave Sumner at Bandcamp Daily (also of Bird Is The Worm) included Favourite Animals in his list of ‘The Best Jazz On Bandcamp: January 2018’. ‘On first listen,’ he writes, Favourite Animals sounds like it may be broken,’ but he then goes on to describe ‘startling moments of altered perspective’ in an enthusiastic mini-review complete with Bandcamp embed.
Steve Day published an extremely detailed writeup on Sandy Brown Jazz, describing the album as ‘a brilliantly conceived big band construct’ and ‘radical contemporary music which is absolutely on the money’. ‘Favourite Animals are making a ‘mindset’ change not just a musical one,’ he writes to close the review.
Sammy Stein on Something Else Reviews also has good things to say about the album: ‘Everyone creates, is supported and leads at different times… [and] there is also a sense of one-ness and understanding which only happens when musicians are completely intuitive of each other.’
Lee Rice-Epstein posted a lovely four star review of the album on the Free Jazz Collective blog (‘bursts out of the speakers’!).
On The Quietus, Stewart Smith included the Favourite Animals and Article XI albums in his Complete Communion Jazz Roundup: UK Special: ‘Roberts and Hunter show new possibilities for the leftfield big band by combining sophisticated ensemble writing with state of the art extended techniques from the wilder shores of free improvisation.’
One of the first reviews that came in was from Gert Derkx on Op Duvel (in Dutch). A bit of online auto-translation help for my almost non-existent Dutch suggests that he counts Favourite Animals, among a number of current bands, as proof that exciting improvised music can be made by large lineups!
Ian Mann at The Jazz Mann came to the Birmingham gig of our Favourite Animals/Article XI tour in December, and reported back with a great review of both bands on his blog. ‘The music of Favourite Animals is consistently mutating, never remaining in one place for long and taking great delight in stylistic and dynamic contrasts,’ he writes of our set, going on to describe the gig as ‘an absorbing and intriguing evening of uncompromising music making at the interface where the composed and the spontaneous conjoin to rewarding effect.’
The Newcastle gig was also reviewed: Steve H on Bebop Spoken Here describes the Favourite Animals set as ‘very cinematic’ and the gig as a ‘brilliant doubleheader’.
Compiling this post prompts me once again to thank the 90 truly amazing people who backed my crowdfunding campaign to make the Favourite Animals album last year. Without you, the music wouldn’t have made it out there and into the ears of music lovers and critics! Thank you!!
Favourite Animals live photo by Oliver Dover.
It’s almost out there! Today I shipped out albums to all the crowdfunder backers, and pre-orders are up on the Bandcamp site. The release date is 4th December, so if you order a copy between now and then, it should drop onto your doormat on the day. Even though we only recorded this in August, I feel like I’ve been working on it for a really long time, so it’s good to get it over the line. The first track is streaming online now:
Next up, it’s all hands on deck as we finish the last of the logistics ready for the double bill Article XI/Favourite Animals UK tour. Here’s the flyer again – come out and see us if we’re in your town…
Favourite Animals is heading out this December on a double bill tour with Anton Hunter’s Article XI. The two ensembles share several members, so we thought it would be fun to take them out together! We have four dates around the Midlands and the North, with both bands releasing albums around the same time. The tour is supported by Arts Council England and The Fenton Arts Trust.
A cluster of new releases have appeared over the past month or so, while this blog has been concentrating on Sloth Racket activities, so here they are in one post.
First up, I’m really pleased to have collobarated with Tullis Rennie on Blurts/Growls, an album compiled from our live trombone/baritone sax improvisations at Cafe Oto Project Space and Free Range in Canterbury late last year. We spent some time together cutting up the music into shortish tracks, making it more of a ‘studio’ type project, although it’s assembled from live recordings. The album came out on Luminous as half of a special LUME Festival double release, and Tullis was even cool with me doing some white goods themed cover art…
The other half of the festival release was the third volume of the Live At LUME fundraiser album series. This edition is a selection of live recordings from the LUME Lab gigs we put on at IKLECTIK in the first half of this year, with tracks from ensembles led by Julie Kjær, Craig Scott and Anton Hunter. All proceeds from sales of these albums go towards future LUME activities: it makes a big difference for us that there’s a small stream of extra income we can use to supplement any project funding we’re able to secure. Have a listen to the ace new music by Julie, Craig and Anton below.
Finally, Tullis and I appear again on Noon: 22nd Century, a new cassette from the Zero Wave label. The album is two live sets by Far Rainbow with guests: one one side Colin Webster and me, and Tullis and me on the other (me me me!). The set with Tullis is from the same Free Range gig that we took some of the Blurts/Growls material from, so there’s a nice connection between the two albums. The tape has super cool artwork by Emily Mary Barnett (who plays drums in Far Rainbow).
The new Sloth Racket album is out TODAY on Luminous! You can listen to the whole thing on Bandcamp now, and order your copy on CD and/or download. People who placed a pre-order should have received the rest of the album download today, and the physical copy in the post (let me know if you haven’t).
We’re touring at the end of the month: details are in the previous post…