Category Archives: Luminous

Favourite Animals album reviews round-up

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!

Live reviews

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.

Favourite Animals album now available to pre-order!

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…

A tour for December

Favourite Animals is heading out this December on a double bill tour with Anton Hunter’s Article XI. The two ensembles share several members, so we thought it would be fun to take them out together! We have four dates around the Midlands and the North, with both bands releasing albums around the same time. The tour is supported by Arts Council England and The Fenton Arts Trust.

Blurts/Growls, Live At LUME Vol. 3 and Noon: 22nd Century

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).

Sloth Racket ‘Shapeshifters’ album and tour

The second Sloth Racket album ‘Shapeshifters’ is available to pre-order today, with albums shipping out and full release on 12th June (on Luminous). Recorded in October 2016 at Blueprint Studios in Salford, the album is made up of four new pieces that we developed over the course of our Autumn tour. Have a listen to a preview track and order your copy in advance from the Luminous Bandcamp site.

To launch the album we’re heading out on tour at the end of June, with support from Arts Council England. The tour takes us to some new places, perhaps the most exciting of which is the first ever edition of Listen! in Cambridge. Listen! is being set up by dedicated London jazz scene supporters Carol Garrison and Graham Lee, who have relocated to Cambridge and decided to get their hands dirty setting up a new outpost for adventurous music there. As well as Cambridge we’ll be playing in Bristol and Norwich for the first time, plus returning to Leeds and Brighton to play at Wharf Chambers and Safehouse. To start things off we’ll be doing a set on the Saturday of the second LUME Festival, which presumably you’ve already got your tickets for…

Here’s the tour itinerary, with links to more info on the gigs:

24th June London: IKLECTIK (LUME Festival)
26th June Leeds: Wharf Chambers (presented by Sproggits)
27th June Bristol: The Old England (presented by Pull The Strings)
28th June Brighton: The Verdict (presented by Safehouse)
29th June Norwich: York Tavern (presented by Plink Plonk)
30th June Cambridge: Unitarian Church (presented by Listen!)

See you out there!


Trip report: Word Of Moth at Jazzwerkstatt Festival, CH

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.

Photo from the Jazzwerkstatt Instagram, credit coming soon

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 action in February

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….