Two dates with Benedict Taylor later this month, in North and South London. More info about Flim Flam is on the website, and you can buy advance tickets for the Raw Tonk showcase at V22 Summer Club.
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…
A quick post to report that I had a very nice time playing duo with Benedict Taylor at Arch 1 last week. It was all live streamed (!) and is now online:
Our next duo date is at Flim Flam on 25th July, so join us then for more bari/viola improv.
The excellent waterintobeer have invited us back for a third series of BRÅK improv gigs in the shop. I’m looking forward to playing duos with Dee Byrne, Rachel Musson and Alex Ward this time around, and Colin and Tom also have a great selection of guests lined up. Join us in Brockley for more evenings of beer and music…In other BRÅK news, I’ve just seen some great photos by Arek Golosz taken at our September and October gigs last year. You can check out the full selection on the gallery page of our new BRÅK website, but here are a couple of my sets with Tullis Rennie and Kim Macari:
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.
This month I’m part of Seth Bennett’s ‘What Love’ project; three gigs for a brand new group, interpreting/responding to the music of Charles Mingus. Also playing in the ensemble will be Kim Macari (trumpet), Ollie Dover (alto saxophone and bass clarinet), George Murray (trombone), Adam Fairhall (piano), Johnny Hunter (drums) and of course Seth on bass. Each member of the band will bring an arrangement of a Mingus composition (or their own Mingus-inspired new composition). It should be good fun! You can catch us in Sheffield, Cambridge and Manchester. See the flyer below for dates and venues…Update: now with rehearsal video….
After a great first batch of gigs this Autumn, BRÅK is back in early 2018 for a second series of improvised music nights at waterintobeer in Brockley. Colin Webster, Tom Ward and I are inviting a new set of duo partners for triple bills and tasty beers. I’m focussing on string players, playing sets with Benedict Taylor, Hannah Marshall and Seth Bennett. All the info is on Colin’s poster below…hope to see you there!
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…