The Ex & Brass Unbound
In their 30 year existence, Dutch underground legends The Ex have made connections between post-punk, Eastern European folk, free-improvisation and Ethiopian jazz, yet they’re still widely referred to as anarcho-punks. A misrepresentation?
‘Yes – in a word!’ laughs guitarist Andy Moor, ‘A lot of people who might actually like The Ex might think, oh, this is just a bunch of guys with Mohican haircuts and leather jackets screaming, “Oi!”. And that’s a shame.’
So what is it?
‘I don’t know what it is. It’s something that has evolved over so many years that it’s our own sound. The influence is from so many places, from African music, to dubstep, Hungarian music.’
If there’s a key to Ex-music, it’s in the eschewing of conventional rock attack for something more open, a high-energy trance music that recalls the rolling grooves of Fela Kuti and the mesmeric rhythms of Can. The jagged, scratchy guitar interplay gives it that punky edge, while leaving plenty of space for vocalists and collaborators to add colour. And what collaborators! From avant-garde cellist Tom Cora, to members of Tortoise and Sonic Youth, the Ex’s list of guests is testament to their questing spirit. Recently, they have established strong connections with Ethiopia, touring the country and recording the glorious Moa Anbessa with the great saxophonist Getachew Mekuria.
For their first Scottish gig since 2003, The Ex will be augmented by Brass Unbound, an incredible horn section that teams saxophonists Matts Gustaffson (whose trio The Thing recently covered The Ex) and Ken Vandermark with trumpeter Roy Paci and trombonist Walter Wierbos. The idea of The Ex’s joyous noise combined with free jazz is truly mind-blowing.
‘We chose players we thought could deal with our volume, that have a hard, loud sound themselves, and are also very, very creative and free as players,’ Moor explains. ‘There are going to be songs and it should also be music that you can dance to, with riffs and choruses. Then in the middle of that we’re gonna have improvisation bits.’
Politically aware, independent and musically open, The Ex are an inspiration. Unmissable.
CCA, Glasgow, Sat 30 Jan