An edited version of this The Ex gig appeared on Jazzwise magazine’s website today 19 September 2019: https://www.jazzwise.com/review/article/the-ex-cut-to-jazz-punk-chase-at-edinburgh-s-dissection-room
Enthusiastic pogoing by those at the front did not prevent close listening to the repeating guitar figures, which curiously evoked both police sirens and nursery rhymes, over sheets of ear-bleeding guitar noise and popping polyrhythmic drum figures. This event (for a The Ex gig is best described thus) occurring on the eve of widespread climate change demonstrations, was a raging soundtrack to our burning world.
Founded in 1979 by Dutch singer Jos Kley (aka GW Sok), the initially anarcho-punk band has over the last four decades survived many changes of personnel. Indeed, the curiosity, energy, enthusiasm for improvisation and openness to experimentation and collaboration with diverse musicians and bands, notably at their own regular Ex Festivals, has only increased with time.
Newest band member, charismatic lead vocalist and guitarist Arnold de Boer stood almost motionless as his excellent diction projected politically-charged vocals.
Meanwhile drummer (and occasional vocalist) Katherina Bornefeld opened the set with pile-driver intensity, before setting out varieties of polyrhythm, triggering happy memories for this listener of the band’s excellent recordings with esteemed late Ethiopian jazz tenor saxophonist, Getatchew Mekuria.
Equally hard-working guitarists, Andy Moor and Terrie Hessels wove glitchy conniptions, sometimes with extended technique, taking turns to shred thunderously, before the soundscape typically unravelled in a kind of magnificent decomposition. It all felt very free and freeing and not the slightest bit simplistic.
Though marked punk on the box, this band offers a great deal more. Their sound is too evolved to be described by any trite phrase, however if pushed one might characterise it as politically -engaged, world music – informed jazz – punk. Whatever; this is rich, dynamic and captivating music.
The Ex have a three-day residency booked at London’s Café OTO between 15 and 17 November 2019. Doubtless the tickets won’t be around for long.
The Ex were preceded by Glasgow-based Painted X-Ray, a “skins and strings” with electronics five piece: Georgie White and Alison Roe on taiko drums, Rafe Fitzpatrick on violin, Jer Reid on guitar and Ali Begbie on bass. The highly controlled and stylised drumming undulations, cut across by raw violin improvisations, distorted guitars and occasional hissy vocalisations, were startlingly original.