Sloth Racket

A Glorious Monster
Luminous Label LU010

Three years on 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. One of the rare ensembles that overcome the archaic London verses the-rest-of-the-UK divide, the quintet matches timbres from baritone saxophonist Cath Roberts from the British capital with four players who live in Manchester or further out: bassist Seth Bennett, alto saxophonist Sam Andreae, drummer Johnny Hunter and guitarist Anton Hunter. During A Glorious Monster’s four mostly fast-paced tracks, contrasts are set up between rumbling smears from the baritone saxophone and lighter flutter tonguing from the alto saxophonist, which sometimes erupt into Eric Dolphy-like juttering runs. Meanwhile Bennett and especially J. Hunter set up a squirming concrete-like rhythm mass that is consistently pierced by singular flanges or stabs from the guitarist.

Carefully building on lumbering percussion rolls and string plucks, most of the tunes ambulate this way at faster or slower speeds or higher or lower pitches. At the same time the group has evolved to the point where no matter how far away from narrative home base any player strays, via harp-like chording from the guitar, rhino-like snorts from the baritonist or expressive split tones from the altoist, individuals manage to regroup and barrel forward into or back into shrewdly connective lines by the finale. Confidence also leads the group to now perform tracks like the concluding “Octopus” at a low-boil. Although free-form saxophone flutters and chirps that seem to result from detached mouthpieces and drum-beat splatters appear at first to be unduly leisurely and disconnected, the piece soon generates its own momentum, concluding with a jocular jump from ping-ponging guitar riffs and colorful bass thumps and a final drum beat.

The title tune – composed like the others by Roberts – is the most distinctive instance of this approach. With Bennett providing an extended ostinato and Hunter decorating the narrative with bottleneck-like whines that almost appear as if he’s detuning the guitar, weighty tongue slaps from Roberts and squeaky alto trills combine for a harsher do-see-do that sounds both dyspeptic and descriptive. Eventually all sonic pieces lock in place for a consistent and moderato ending.

While one may quarrel with the band’s name and CD titles, there’s no disputing the quintet’s musicianship or originality. Chalk up another high-quality effort here.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Animal Uprising 2. A Glorious Monster 3. The Gazer 4. Octopus

Personnel: Sam Andreae (alto saxophone); Cath Roberts (baritone saxophone); Anton Hunter (guitar); Seth Bennett (bass) and Johnny Hunter (drums)