Some really excellent news to announce today! I have been selected as one of the artists for the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (hcmf//) COVID-19 Commissions. The commissions are the festival’s response to the pandemic, offering artists some paid work now when things are pretty bleak for live performance. I’ll be writing a new piece for trio, to be performed at hcmf// at a later date. With my 2020 year planner in the recycling bin due to loads of future work being cancelled or postponed indefinitely, this is really brilliant news and I feel very lucky to have been chosen. I’ll be writing about the project on the blog as it develops.
In other news, there’s a new merch item up on the Sloth Racket site for tomorrow’s Bandcamp Friday and it’s something quite special. For many years, our bass player Seth has been collecting people’s verbal reactions to his double bass (usually when they see him on public transport or walking down the street) using the hashtag #doublebasscomments. Sloths guitarist Anton recently decided that this needed to be taken to a whole different level, and asked the brilliant artist and friend of Sloth Racket Angela Guyton to make a cartoon of some of the comments. The resulting A2 POSTER is now on sale!! Edition of 20, so grab one quick for the bassist in your life…
Tonight on BCC Radio 3 at midnight, the first episode of a brand new improvised music programme called ‘Freeness’ will be broadcast. It’s presented by my good friend and formidable improviser, writer (of music and text) and organiser Corey Mwamba. This is pretty exciting!
Sloth Racket’s ‘We Decide What’s Next’ will be played on the show, along with me talking about the track. Constructing coherent sentences about my own work was harder than I expected, but I’m sure whatever I said has been edited into something that makes sense and it’s an honour to be part of the first episode.
With the axing and reducing of various programmes over the past few years, this feels like a really positive step by the BBC and I hope it’s the beginning of a new era of improvised music on the radio.
There’s an open call for submissions too: Corey and the Reduced Listening team who make the show have created an email address where artists can send in their music, so if you have some tracks you reckon would fit and you’d like played, send them over to freeness @ reducedlistening.co.uk.
I’m looking forward to tuning in and discovering some new music!
The new Sloth Racket album is released today! You can now stream the whole album on Bandcamp, and order CDs and zines to be shipped straight away. Check it out!
You can pre-order your copy of the fourth Sloth Racket album ‘Dismantle Yourself’ today from Luminous! I’m so happy with how this album album sounds and it’s great to get it out there…
As well as the CD edition with hand-printed sleeve, for this release I’ve created a companion zine to go with the album. The 20-page, A6 zines were printed by Footprint Workers Co-operative in Leeds with bright blue ink on recycled paper. The words and graphics inside came out of my process of going through the studio sessions to pick the final album tracks and give them titles: my listening notes always include these things, and this time I decided to work on them a bit to make finished pieces of writing. When laying out the text for the zine pages I incorporated graphics similar to the ones in my scores for Sloth Racket and Favourite Animals compositions.
The CD sleeves come in five different colour inks – randomly selected when I ship albums, or you can take your pick when buying from the merch table.
It’s in the album thanks list, but I should say here once again how grateful I am for the support of the Fenton Arts Trust and the Oppenheim-John Downes Memorial Trust. I was able to get grants from them to support the album recording: a two-day session in February at The Chairworks studio in Yorkshire. After three albums made in single day sessions, the aim was to have more time to work on the music in the relaxed setting of a residential studio. With more time for experimentation, the focus of the recording was the exploration and development of the new material, collectively improvising the composed starting points into finished pieces. Of course, all that will be straight out of the window as soon as we set off on tour in September and get our teeth into the music on the road!
Sloth Racket is hitting the road this Autumn and releasing a new album! After a huge amount of work and multiple grant applications, I’m incredibly happy to announce this run of nine live dates around the UK. Touring is where we can really get into the music, and I can’t wait to get stuck in. I love playing with this band! Check the flyer below for all the dates, and you can find all the info about venues, who will be sharing the bill with us, how you can buy tickets and everything else tour-related at slothracket.co.uk/tour.
The new album ‘Dismantle Yourself’ will be available to pre-order from Luminous on 12th August, and is released on 2nd September. I’ll post here when pre-orders are up too.
See you somewhere out there in September!The tour is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
Sloth Racket is sharing the bill with Dee Byrne’s excellent band Entropi for the first time on Wednesday 13th March, for a special LUME double bill concert at Kings Place. LUME has been taking some time off since our second festival in summer 2017, so it will be great to host our first event in a while at a totally new venue for us.
The second video from our Vortex gig in September last year: another audience-eye view, and this time it’s ‘A Glorious Monster’. I made this one black and white and I’m kind of into it!
We filmed the Sloth Racket gig at The Vortex last week, and I’ll be posting some videos from it online over the next few months. Here’s the first one: Octopus…
You can hear another version of this on A Glorious Monster.
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 new Sloth Racket album A Glorious Monster had been making its way to the ears of various music writers this summer, and here follows a summary of their thoughts on our latest output.
Daniel Spicer in the Wire noted the album’s ‘gossamer guitar webs’, ‘free burn’ and ‘doomy plods’, while Nick Hasted in Jazzwise was struck by the ‘deconstructive graft’, ‘squawks and splutters’ and ‘thunderous force’, resassuring readers that the music was ‘less grindingly abrasive than Ripsaw Catfish’ – a relief to all concerned.
Meanwhile on the internet, Ian Mann of The Jazz Mann felt that the album was ‘Sloth Racket at their inimitable best’. Our first review from the Avant Scena blog featured ‘turbulent free improvisations’, and on the Can This Even Be Called Music blog (!!) we were described as ‘bringing forth a slow burn type of jazz, almost akin to doom music’. Gert Derkx on the ever-supportive Op Duvel blog had lots of positive things to say, if my my sketchy Dutch skills and auto-translate assistance are anything to go by, and we were also an Avant Music News pick of the week. Ken Waxman on Canadian blog Jazzword wrote that ‘the hard-hitting Sloth Racket quintet is refining its approach to Free Jazz without losing any of the power that characterized the band’s earlier music.’ Most recently, Paul Margree on We Need No Swords felt that ‘the border between group and individual blurs into an amorphous zone’ on this album, as well as highlighting the ‘mischievous alto pecking’, Johnny’s ‘octopoid wig out’ and ‘a cloud of mesmerising jitter’.
Big thanks to everyone who has supported the album so far! If you haven’t already, have a listen below and see what you think…