A video has surfaced of a trio gig I did with Otto Willberg and Tullis Rennie back in May this year. Our performance was part of the Jazz Herstory series, taking place at Poplar Union in East London. Nice to have a document of this group!
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…
A video has surfaced of Rachel Musson and I playing our duo set at Arch 1 last month. Have a listen/watch…
Two dates to finish off the summer, both first time collaborations. First, I’ve been invited to be part of Unpredictable Series’ Alterations Residency 2018 at Cafe Oto Project Space. Over four days from 23rd to 26th August, Alterations (Peter Cusack, David Toop, Terry Day and Steve Beresford) are presenting a series of workshops and performances. I’m very flattered to be one of the guest artists along with John Butcher, Gina Southgate, Pierre Bouvier Patron, Max Eastley and Blanca Regina; I’ll be playing a duo set with Gina Southgate on Saturday 25th at 6pm. I’ve wanted to collaborate with Gina since she put her name in the Hat Speaks hat at LUME Festival 2017 (where she was doing live painting for us), and then played a brilliant set with an amazing collection of household objects as part of an ad hoc group. This promises to be fun…
A couple of days later on Tuesday 28th, I’m back at the Project Space as part of John Macedo’s excellent night SOLO:DUO:TRIO. I’ll be playing a duo set with Daniel Thompson. I’ve shared the bill with Daniel quite a few times and we’ve both played at each other’s gig series, but this will be the first time we’ve actually played together! Really looking forward to it.
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…