Boat-Ting – Steve Noble + Alex Ward / Steve Beresford + Mark Sanders / Smith, McPhail, Hayward, Lash / Alex Ward + Sybil Madrigal – Bar & Co, Temple, London, 2nd September

The mighty Boat-Ting returned from its summer break for an 11th anniversary gig with a brilliant line-up.  First on were two-thirds of N.E.W., the band only missing John Edwards; Alex Ward and Steve Noble more than compensated with a storming, violent set.  Ward peeled strips off the walls with blistering six-string attacks, interspersed with cools pools of calm, worrying the neck of the guitar in high pitched fluctuating whistles.  Noble displayed his usual telepathic abilities, rattling around the whole kit in perfect unison with Ward’s playing; he utilised jazz breaks, rapid machine-gun rolls, and droning gongs to great effect.  Noble and Ward built patient constructions before dragging them downhill over reckless slaloming destruction.  Even without Edward’s rumbling presence, this was an awesome exploded free-punk racket.

Steve Beresford and Mark Sanders were on next playing, respectively, electronics and drums.  Together they mined deep wells of weirdness.  Beresford engineered static, buzz, quacks, and jumbled voices from a table full of wires, pedals, and assorted noise-making tools.  Sanders was a lively partner, bowing cymbals, rolling marbles around the drum skins, and playing small bells mounted on a woodblock.  They made a fascinating mesh of sound; a shrieking resonant spider’s web entangling a profusion of alien bells.

Following a wildly off-kilter singing of ‘Happy Birthday’ and the lighting of a cake; the third act began, consisting of Ian Smith (trumpet), Pete McPhail (saxophone), Charles Hayward (drums), and Dominic Lash (double bass).  They unleashed a two set monster of a performance.  The trumpet and sax locked in heated blurs, occasionally disentangling into separate bursts and flurries.  The rhythm section were electrifying; particularly in the second set where Hayward and Lash combined in an exhilarating tangle.  The group were absolutely brilliant; a thrilling, great quartet.

Closing the evening were Sybil Madrigal (poetry) and Alex Ward (clarinet); Madrigal’s poetry as hilarious and engaging as usual, her every word delivered passionately, full of shrieks, sighs, shouting, and lusty cackles.  Ward underlined, provided italics, and generally spun intuitive curling lines around every deranged utterance.  A personal favourite, apart from the always brilliant ‘I Love You So Much’, was a poem about the ubiquity of toilet spies, accompanied by the swoop and buzz of the clarinet.

In the words of Sybil herself, “keep the boat afloat”.  May Boat-Ting forever shore herself on sandbanks of deep improvised madness.

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