July 16, 2020

Going Down the Well
Unit Records UTR 4933

A change of pace from the hard-edged improvisations members of the UK’s Sloth Racket band usually play, this CD adds some Swiss chocolate to British real ale for a brew that comingles honeyed fusion ingredients onto an acerbic technical base. Actually only three Slothers are present here, baritone saxophonist Cath Roberts, bassist Seth Bennett and drummer Johnny Hunter. Alto saxophonist Dee Byrne, who is in the Word of Moth band with the others is also British, while Swiss players, trombonist Simon Petermann, musical director of the Fischermanns Orchestra and electric keyboardist Oli Kuster, who moves among electro pop, electronics and Jazz, fill out the band.

In spite of the three non-Slothers bringing electronics to the group, those programmed impulses are used sparingly throughout. Most prominent is the fissure often present between the Fender Rhodes jittery dynamics usually diffused with bright elevated pitches and the caustic craggy bites propelled by the horn players. Both Roberts and Byrne incline towards thickened glossolalia, altissimo hollers and triple-tonguing flutters, while Petermann’s muddy vibrations and plunger excavations can undermine any pop or rock drifts from the rhythm section. The vitality that arises from these sometimes uneasy confrontations is put to best use on tracks such as “35 Years” and “Avignon”. But two mid-session tunes are more expressive. Resonating double bass plucks plus drum patterns and keyboard slides give the slow-paced “Sonata d’Alouatta” a snaky funk beat which remains in the second tune’s second section now propelled by muted plunger trombone wails and baritone saxophone tongue-slapping. A final section uses turn-arounds that dramatically emphasize numerous rhythm-horns switches. Meanwhile pleasant coloration from trombone lines set up by fluid keyboard runs and drum smacks on “The Impossible Made Possible”, evolve into jagged alto saxophone triple-tonguing that turns to staccato buzzes which surmount drum pressure before all meld at the end.

Still a work in progress, MoonMot must still bond the seams and synapses that remain from contrary strategies. However the title of the last tune suggest what MoonMot is heading for and on the path to achieve.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1, Going Down the Well 2. 35 Years 3. The Roundabout 4. Threnody for the English Polity 5. Avignon 6. Sonata d’Alouatta.7. The Impossible Made Possible 8. Brimbore

Personnel: Simon Petermann (trombone/electronics); Dee Byrne (alto saxophone/electronics); Cath Roberts (baritone saxophone); Oli Kuster (Fender Rhodes/electronics); Seth Bennett (bass) and Johnny Hunter (drums)