The ever brilliant Boat-Ting kicked off its final gig of 2012 in fine style with a duo performance by Shabaka Hutchings on saxophone and Mark Sanders behind the drums. Beginning with a cautious storm-gathering opening, the duo constructed an increasingly complex structure, heavy on the skronk with Hutchins bouncing and rolling on his feet. A second section saw a more abrasive textured approach; Sanders scraped bowed metal shrieks from his set and softer sighs collided with harsh bell clashes. Hutchins switched to clarinet and emitted sharp squeaks and whistles to hang in the air around which Sanders crashed and rumbled. This was a rewarding and intuitive performance.
Next, was a duo of Steve Noble (drums) and Alex Ward (guitar), two thirds N.E.W, who thrashed out a turbulent beast of a set. A violent profusion of activity would often stop in a sudden silence no less loud than the noise preceding it. Noble and Ward are two musicians who can flip from a zen-like calm to arse-kicking heaviness in a heartbeat; a duo equally as capable of savage riffing as an exploration of hypnotic drone. They occasionally stumble around like a drunk trying to fit keys in a door only to fall through the entrance into a period of suddenly sober reflection. As an improv group, they possess a level of psychic communion that is stunning to watch, like a metal band of higher beings from Titan, methane flowing through their veins and enormous twitching bulbous brains visible under glass helmets.
The third act of the night was a quartet featuring Tom Jackson (clarinet), Benedict Taylor (viola), Chris Cundy (bass clarinet) and Ashley John Long (double bass). The group rattled out a shivering Penderecki-like glassiness of aching chamber discordance. Ashley John Long was often a manic presence, contorting himself around his bass while the rest of the band smeared a micro gestured mess which at times built into an avian cacophony. The group recalled the music of Xenakis in their practice of microscopically precise activity; the group also excelled on a macro level when they locked into an impressively weird scraping and honking.
The final performance of the evening was a duo of Sybil Madrigal (poetry) and Alex Ward (clarinet). Sybil was an imposing presence throughout, spinning herself as a “word monger for free”. It was her evident joy in mongering those words that made the performance so gripping. At times quite Joycean, “fingers buried deep in brainy box”, at others violently funny, “we are the untermensch, sniffing Satan’s bollocks.” The highlight was a tale of obsessional love which featured the immortal line, “I love you so much I want to fuck your brother up the ass with a dildo while you watch.” This was all spat out with an intensity that buried Alex Ward’s polite adornment.
I cannot think of a better gig to have ended my concert-going year with. Long live Boat-Ting and all who sail in her.