Category Archives: News

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.

What Love

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….

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.

Crowdfunder for the Favourite Animals large ensemble album

I’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo today for the upcoming Favourite Animals album. It will run until 4th October. From the campaign text:

This August I gathered my ten piece ensemble Favourite Animals to record a studio album at City, University of London. Thanks to our trombone player Tullis Rennie who lectures there, we had access to the world class facilities over three days. With Alex Bonney engineering, we recorded loads of music. Now I need YOUR help to get it out there! I’m fundraising to cover the musicians and engineers’ fees, mixing, mastering and CD production, ready for release this December when the band goes on tour.

You can check out the video below and support the campaign here. Help me make it happen!

‘Shapeshifters’ album reviews round-up

Reviews of the new Sloth Racket album have been emerging since it came out in June, so this is a round-up of what people have been writing about our second release.

In printed words, we had a good reception from Daniel Spicer in Jazzwise:

Also in print was this nice review from Stewart Smith in The Wire magazine:

The blogosphere was also into the album. From the UK we had very positive (and extensive!) writeups:

Dalston Sound‘For all the restraint on display this is meaty, powerful music, thoughtful and multi-dimensional with no lacunae and no navel-gazing. And Roberts’s authorial stamp is strong, so Sloth Racket are shaping up as one of the most distinctive groups to emerge from the current UK Jazz/improv nexus.’

The Jazz Mann: ‘This is a group that is willing to stretch itself and take musical risks. Many of the musicians have previously played together in other line ups and this is reflected by a shared sense of adventure and a cohesive and collective group dynamic.’

Sandy Brown Jazz: ‘Sloth Racket’s second album Shapeshifters is well worth enquiry.  It literally sharpens up on the creative edge of improvisation.’

Further afield, the album was reviewed by Op Duvel (in Dutch) and Musiczoom (in Italian).

Big thanks to all the reviewers for their support of the record!


The second Ripsaw Catfish album ‘Namazu’ is available to pre-order from Raw Tonk Records now – with the CDs shipping out on 17th March. Recorded over two gigs at Cafe Oto (for Match & Fuse Festival last October) and IKLECTIK (for LUME’s LJF triple-bill special last November), it’s a nice record of where we’re at with the duo, nearly three years after our first release ‘For The Benefit Of The Tape’. The excellent artwork is by Colin Webster. Namazu is a giant catfish from Japanese mythology, responsible for earthquakes but usually restrained by a stone to its head…

We’re playing a cluster of Ripsaw Catfish gigs as part of the Five Years of Raw Tonk celebrations: Pletterij, Haarlem, NL (17th March); De Singer, Rijkevorsel, BE (18th March); De Ruimte, Amsterdam, NL (19th March); Hundred Years Gallery, London (25th March); St Margarets Church, Manchester (26th March); and at a venue tbc, Oslo, NO (2nd April). We’re also appearing at Thinking/Not Thinking Festival on 8th April at New River Studios, London.