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…
This year’s Sloth Racket tour was our biggest yet. We played eight dates over two weeks, taking in four new cities and four of our favourite tour spots, and even managed to fit in a live session on Resonance FM: big thanks to Dexter Bentley for hosting us on the mighty Hello Goodbye Show! You can check out the whole show on Mixcloud.
I’m extremely grateful to Arts Council England for supporting the tour. A grant from their new National Lottery Project Grants scheme made it possible for us to spend a fortnight travelling together, playing some great gigs, meeting new promoters and developing our music: all of which would have been a huge financial challenge on gig fees alone. I was very pleased with the geography of the tour and with how the logistics went, considering that it was the largest number of dates I’ve booked in one block so far, and I also successfully avoided acting as a ‘tour manager’ at any point: on these tours I book all the gigs, travel and accommodation, but once we set off the band acts as a collective – meaning I get to ‘just’ be a bandmate…
The tour marked the release of our third studio album A Glorious Monster which came out on 4th June, right in the middle of the tour. The album (and our new band t-shirts) went down well with tour audiences and online followers alike, and I was happy to be posting out orders from different cities between gigs.
Our new touring stops this year were Bath, York, Durham and Edinburgh. In Bath we were hosted by the tireless RMT Productions, who deftly handled a last-minute venue let-down and moved the gig to the beautiful Kelston Barn, as a co-promotion with Kelston Records. We shared the bill with Run Logan Run, and the great weather made it the perfect night for a gig in a hilltop barn! In York, our venue was the Basement, a live music space hidden under a cinema, where we discovered (or were discovered by?) an enthusiastic new cluster of local listeners for our music. I’ve been trying to find a way to play in York for a while, and I hope we’re able to go back sometime.
Our next new place was Durham and DJAZZ Festival (which I had been pronouncing ‘dee-jazz’ but is apparently ‘jazz’). This was the second year of the event and there was music going on in all sorts of spaces around the city, from barber shops to outdoor stages. We were the last act of the weekend on the Fowler’s Yard stage and had a great time. Hats off to Heather and the festival team! After that we headed to Edinburgh, where we played our second ever Scottish gig at Emma Smith’s Bitches Brew night. The series focuses on female improvisers across all genres, and it was refreshing to be part of a bill with multiple styles of music.
We returned to London, Manchester, Derby and Leeds, playing for familiar faces as well as plenty of new listeners. Our co-promotions with Andrew Cheetham and David Birchall (at the Peer Hat in Manchester) and Shatner’s Bassoon (at Wharf Chambers in Leeds) drew lovely crowds who were unexpectedly into my advance ticketing through Bandcamp too. I put us on at Hundred Years Gallery in London, where Colin Webster and Andrew Lisle played an amazing duo set to start the evening, and in Derby we were hosted by the ever excellent Corey Mwamba at the Bless.
Overall it was another great tour. Many pots of instant oats were consumed, and a thorough survey of UK budget hotel chains and their bar opening hours was carried out (with mixed results). We did the majority of the tour on cheap train tickets this time (band members even made formal commitments to each other by getting a Two Together Railcard), which meant that everyone could enjoy multi-tasking on fun other activities like tweeting about the next gig, testing our strength with ridiculous luggage and reading essays about Anthony Braxton (who some of us had also managed to catch playing at Cafe Oto at the start of the tour). Thanks to everyone who came out to support us, and to all the promoters and musicians who hosted the gigs. See you on the next one…
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.