Boat-Ting – Steve Noble, Alex Ward + Benedict Taylor, Adam Bohman + Adrian Northover + Catherine Pluygers, God’s Mama, Bar & Co, Temple, London, 4th November

Another great evening of exploratory music was had at this edition of Boat-Ting.  The first performance was an excellent solo drum set from Steve Noble featuring maracas, singing gongs, and a tom falling over.  Structured around thick punkish lines and splattered periods of controlled chaos; it was virtuosic but unflashy and definitely not without humour: a squeezy ball was employed, wheezing within the hi-hat.   Steve Noble has an awesome, seemingly bottomless technique, allied with wit and imagination.  His delivery is furious but often suddenly becalmed. Often abrasive, insistently hypnotic, his playing is always surprising and enormously absorbing.

Alex Ward, Benedict Taylor
This duo of Alex Ward (guitar) and Benedict Taylor (viola) begins in a restrained fashion with tentative probing between the pair before they wove a sawing dissonant mesh.  Later a shivering dot-to-dot tap-unison was undone in a barbed and acidic attack with Ward employing an aquatic burble, full of tight and tense emissions, tiny pings and coiling scrabbles.  This was a great pairing with plenty to say, and with much more to explore; a particularly good passage saw the two combine in a shrill upper register haze, the set collapsing in a wheezing, exhausted and gasping mess.
Adrian Northover, Adam Bohman, Catherine Pluygers
Adam Bohman (amplified objects), Adrian Northover (saxophone), and Catherine Pluygers (oboe) were the next group.  They began with the trading of small discrete gestures with gulfs of silence between, the gaps filled with the hum of the bar fridges: a complementary hissing drone.  Their separate compartments of sound came together in a dance of trembling delicacy.  Catherine Pluygers’ melodies were like a frayed ‘La Mer’ with the occasional intruding siren honk.  Adam Bohman throughout transmitted a garbled alien process, packed with crackle.  The set resembled a nest being built; twigs added sparingly but precisely, long considered thought employed before every flutter and scrape.  This method amounted to a considered intensity, built from careful but teetering construction, sudden windows opening onto whispering plains.  The trio played a fiercer second act; Bohman’s oddly vocal jumble-sale of sound whipped up some great noise: ape cries, human moans, dog whimpers.  The buzz and burr of Pluygers and Northover saw them engaging and splitting apart into arcing solos.

Final act of the evening was the awesome God’s Mama, comprising Sibyl Madrigal (voice), Alex Ward (guitar), Darren Morris (bass), and Lee Morris (drums).  This full band setting finally gave Sibyl’s masterwork ‘I Love You So Much’ the backing it deserves, a raging funk monster: dub basslines, jazz breaks; Ward’s guitar slashing, riffing, and exploding in sharp shards of feedback; Sibyl screaming, arms aloft like a poetic, nautical Iggy.  On only their second album, from which most of the set tonight derived, God’s Mama already have a rich catalogue of material; ‘Rice is nice’ is an instant classic, unwinding Slint-like; the vocals a raging beat version of Brian McMahan.

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