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INSTIGATOR of that quintet of surprising and ever-inventive sounds Sloth Racket, is baritone saxophonist Cath Roberts.
As a teenager she was into rock music, so her musical starting points weren’t jazz.
“I played alto sax until my late twenties, then the baritone chose me! I had used it for playing bass lines in pop settings.
“Then when I got into free improvisation, I found the baritone felt more natural and most comfortable.”
Formed in 2014, Sloth Racket includes Roberts, alto saxophonist Sam Andreae and bassist Seth Bennett, with Anton and Johnny Hunter guitarist and drummer respectively.
They’re all from the north, which might account for their grooving hard on their latest album Dismantle Yourself.
Is the album’s title a message about Johnson and Trump and their overweening egotisms, I wonder?
“The track titles come from the music,” Roberts responds. “But we’re massively influenced by the nightmarish political situation and the climate emergency.
“It’s impossible to make music that isn’t. It’s hard to create a sound of optimism and easy to feel that music is powerless and irrelevant. But we must hold on to optimism, as in the tune We Decide What's Next, although how that will turn out, I don’t know.”
For Roberts, the most satisfying way to create music is collective, free improvisation and playing riffs.
“That’s a huge part of what we do,” she says. “I also like to write music so I bring in composed elements, with how we play them very much part of the moment. So I have my cake and eat it!”
Listening to Dismantle Yourself, the contradictions ring out in the harmonies of Proximity Warning, forged by Andreae’s spiky alto and Roberts’s more mellow and rumbling baritone. Anton Hunter’s lucid guitar pecks through We Decide What’s Next before two saxophones forge enigmatic riffs and pitches.
The discourse is more guttural on the title tune and in Butterfly Takes the Train Andreae’s pointillistic alto and the gentle twang of Anton’s guitar prefaces Bennett’s throbbing bassline, Johnny’s rattling snares and Roberts’s rolling baritone.
It’s an album that bears witness to Roberts’s assertion that “making music together collectively feels like a political act and free improvisation has political roots. We have to keep doing it!”
Dismantle Yourself is released on Luminous Records.
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