Between 1991 and 1992 Ex released six singles, that started a new phase in
their career, one that is more clearly jazz and less clearly punk.
The new course is self-explanatory on the two collaborations with cellist
Scrabbling At The Lock (RecRec, 1991)
And The Weathermen Shrug Their Shoulders (First Puppet, 1993).
The albums are hardly the work of Ex's genius, as they soften the band's
aggressive stance and sound almost folkish.
Scottish guitarist Andy Moor
of Dog Faced Hermans joined Ex in 1994,
but started Kletka Red soon afterwards.
Han Buhrs joined for
Mudbird Shivers (RecRec, 1995), and his Captain Beefheart-influenced
vocals gave Ex a new sound. No surprise that
Thunderstruck Blues and Hunt Hat
sound like Beefheart fronting late
Pere Ubu or
The double album Instant (Ex, 1995), possibly their masterpiece,
features distinguished guests, mainly from the jazz scene
(including legendary drummer Han Bennink) and increases,
if possible, the degree of randomness of their songs.
Occasionally, one hears echoes of the Art Ensemble Of Chicago
(Danse Maudit), of avantgarde
chamber music (Baars vs KArekiet), of Fred Frith
(Knic Knack & Zoom),
Captain Beefheart (Ret Roper),
and of Weasels-era Frank Zappa
(If The Hat Fits The Suit).
Starters Alternators (Touch & Go, 1998) stands as a major turning point
in the career of Ex.
While the emphatic Fall-ian sermon of Frenzy,
the dissonant, Beefheart-ian bacchanal of
Let's Panic Later
the demented jumping blues of Two Struck By The Moon
(enhanced by guitar scratching),
merely rehash with more confidence their craft,
several loosely-structured pieces leverage on the chaotic experiments of the
past to create a new form of art.
IOU is a trivial exercise in psychodrama recitation, but
it actually fuses the rhythmic elements of the
Modern Lovers and the
Talking Heads is a all but trivial manner.
The instrumental Wildebeest
is pure and simple psychological tension in the form of collective,
Mother (sung by Katrin the drummer) is deceivingly childish, while its
percussive primitivism conceils a solemn madrigal filtered through the
Sure, there isn't much music in "songs" like Art Of Losing, that are not
sung and are played in a subdued mode, but they are subtle lieder in the
Nick Cave/ Jim Morrison tradition: haunting vocals over a haunting background of free-form
If Lump Sum Insomnia is too theatrical,
elsewhere the band shows the consummate skill of musichall entertainers who
have upgraded to the city's opera house.
Dizzy Spells (Touch & Go, 2001) is perhaps a little too artsy for its
own sake. Ex often sound like aging punks (Town Of Stone,
Burnsome) who still rant but with no venom.
They also take themselves too seriously. Except for the
circus feeling of Nobodies' Dream, the tracks exude self-importance.
True, Ex coin their own version of
blues (Walt's Dizzyland),
rap (Time Flies, Fistful Of Feed)
and folk (Little Atlas Heavyweight) and experiment with countless
styles, but very little sounds excitingly new.
They do score a couple of points with the demented boogie of Haydays
and the drunk pow-wow of Karaoke Blackout.
Ex Orkest (2001) is a live big-band experiment that augments the Ex's line-up with 20 musicians (vocalists, trumpet players, percussionists, trombonists, saxophonists, bassists and conductor Hamish McKeich).
Turn (Touch & Go, 2004) is a hellish cauldron of agit-prop lyrics, vitriolic guitar dissonances, brutal choppy rhythms and blasting free-form noise
(Listen to the Painters, the explosive Theme from Konono).
This time around, there are also murky instrumental passages (highlighted by
the doublebass of Rozemarie, the new member) and quasi-rapping interludes.
The bad news is that they have slowed down considerably.
In the old days, this double disc would have been an EP.
Catch My Shoe (Ex, 2010), Ex's
first album in six years and the first one without Sok,
featured singer and guitarist Arnold DeBoer.
Addis (Fishtank, 2011) documents
a collaboration between clarinetist Xavier Charles and Terrie Ex.
The Ex's Y'Anbessaw Tezeta (Terp, 2012) featured many guests, including
the 76-years old tenor saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria.
Ex's guitarists Terrie Ex and Andy Moor joined Paal Nilssen-Love (drums) and Ken Vandermark (tenor sax and B clarinet) for Live At Cafe Oto (september 2011) credited to Lean Left.
Gored Gored (Terp, 2013) documented an improvisation between
drummer Paal Nilssen-Love and guitarist Terrie Ex.
The Ex collaborated with Brass Unbound, i.e. the reed quartet of Mats Gustafsson (baritone sax), Ken Vandermark (saxes and clarinet), Wolter Wierbos (trombone) and Roy Paci (trumpet), for Enormous Door (2013).
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