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.
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).
LUME Festival is back, and this year it’s a two-dayer! Early bird tickets are on sale today and there aren’t many of them, so grab yours from the Luminous Bandcamp site now…
I’m just back from a fantastic trip to Bern, Switzerland, playing at Jazzwerkstatt‘s tenth anniversary festival with Word Of Moth. Dee and I were invited by Marc Stucki and Benedikt Reising, the artistic directors at Jazzwerkstatt, to bring a LUME ensemble to the festival and collaborate with some Swiss musicians. Two sax players who have spent the last decade building up the festival into its current five-night form, Marc and Benedikt share a lot of common ground with us, so it was a great to chance to get an insight into the Swiss take on artist-led endeavours like our own. They both appeared several times across the programme as players, popping up in horn sections of various different ensembles and as part of established collaborations. It was clear that Jazzwerkstatt inhabits the same territory that LUME aims to; creating self-produced gigs and festivals that allow the artistic directors to develop their own work within the context of a wider community of artists and collaborators.
The festival venue was Turnhalle, the converted gymnasium of an old school building that is now inhabited by a truly amazing cross-arts space called PROGR. The building houses artists’ studios, venue spaces of different sizes, two cafe/bar/restaurant options and a new ‘living room’ open for use for small events and meetups. It was immediately evident upon walking through the school gates that this is a place with a strong artistic community around it.
In discussion on email with Marc and Benedikt before the festival, we decided to expand the usual Word Of Moth lineup of me, Dee, Seth Bennett and Johnny Hunter to include Oli Kuster (keys), Simon Petermann (trombone) and Lukas Thöni (trumpet). LUME suggested the instrumentation, Jazzwerkstatt picked the players, and the rehearsals were booked in. Rather than writing new music for the collaboration, we arrived in Bern armed only with the existing quartet repertoire and a plan to arrange new versions of the music through rehearsal with the Swiss musicians. This approach felt slightly risky, but it was closest to the spirit of how Word Of Moth usually works (simple frameworks for pieces, that we flesh out into arrangements together). We had spent the past couple of weeks working intensively as a quartet for the recording of our first album and two UK performances, so the band felt in good shape as we set out. Oli, Simon and Lukas turned out to be a great fit, and over the course of two rehearsals at PROGR we assemble a set of music for the gig.
The technical team working on the festival were a total joy to work with, and the gig had possibly the best live sound on stage I’ve experienced. They also used a very pleasing 3D stage plan (see above) to discuss how we wanted to set up. As our second rehearsal was a public one taking place on the stage, we worked on the music as the team simultaneously set up the microphones and monitors, and by the end of the afternoon everyone was ready for the gig. I liked this approach as it meant we had quite a long period to acclimatise ourselves on stage, which I think meant I felt more comfortable in the space when it came to the performance.
Our set was on the festival’s opening night, and we played to a packed house of enthusiastic listeners. After months of discussion and preparation, the gig felt like it was over in about two seconds (as these sort of things usually do); but the unanimous feeling after the show was that it had gone really well. Thanks to Jazzwerkstatt’s very generous hospitality we were able to stay on for the rest of the festival, and conversations with our three Swiss bandmates during that time revealed that everyone was keen to play together again in the future. We left Bern having made many new connections, heard all sorts of new music, and encountered a new city and its artists. Thinking back over the trip as I write this I’m left with a feeling of optimism; that exciting taste of a new creative thing emerging and looking around for where to go next. We have already started talking about how to make a UK return leg happen, so I have a feeling that the next LUME/Jazzwerkstatt encounter will be making itself known before too long…
Word Of Moth (complete with new drummer Johnny Hunter) has lots of stuff planned for this year, starting with a flurry of activity in February. We’re appearing at the first LUME Lab gig on 8th February at IKLECTIK, presenting new music that we’ve been working on. Then we’re heading into the studio to record an album, before heading to Wolverhampton on 17th February to play at Jazz At The Arena. After that, we’re off to Bern, Switzerland to play for Jazzwerkstatt at their tenth anniversary festival! It’s all happening….
Sloth Racket has a new video! Our good friend Ben Owen has made this great short film of us playing at a LUME gig at The Vortex in May this year. The piece we play is called ‘Shapeshifters’ and will appear on our second album, coming out in Summer 2017.
More videos of the band can be found on the Sloth Racket page. Also this month, some new nice words about the band have appeared online; from Dave Sumner on his latest Bird Is The Worm ‘This Is Jazz Today’ dispatch, and from Stewart Smith in his 2016 jazz/improv roundup on The Quietus. Thanks both!
Anton Hunter has posted a video of the LUMEkestra playing his composition ‘LUME Kestrel’. The gig was at IKLECTIK or 14th November, as part of our special LUME triple bill show for the London Jazz Festival. As well as Anton’s piece we played compositions by Paulo Duarte, Tom Ward, Martin Pyne and Dave Kane. It was a lot of fun, and the ensemble will definitely appear again in 2017: its mission is to create a space for the composers around LUME to experiment with writing for large groups.
I was quite pleased with my flyer for this gig too:
LUME Festival has a review in this month’s Wire magazine, courtesy of Daniel Spicer. He really sums up the weird post-Brexit mood on the day (two days after the EU referendum result) and has some pretty glowing things to say about the music, including Word Of Moth and Article XI. Although it was only in June, the festival feels like a long time ago now. Roll on the next one!
(Click on the image to enlarge).
Anton Hunter has recently posted a video online from our Article XI gig at the Vortex in 2014! Check it out below. It will be great to play with this band again at LUME Festival in June….
Quick post to report that Madwort Sax Quartet has recorded what will hopefully become a debut album! On 16th April we played a LUME gig at Hundred Years Gallery, and the whole thing was recorded by Alex Bonney. It was a great evening with a lovely crowd (thanks to all who came!), so I look forward to hearing the results. Stay tuned for news of the release plans…