The Ex

Dutch jazz punk veterans The Ex, have been going for thirty-five years. In that time they have traversed as many styles, from free jazz to African rhythms, rattling through studio albums and band members in the process. Tonight’s gig is their first in Edinburgh for twelve years and is therefore something of a special occasion. The equipment on Summerhall’s Dissection Room stage is reassuringly battered: gaffer-taped amplifiers and speakers begging to be blown.

It’s angry, clever and oddly funky.

Before they can be though, My Two Dads treat us to their noisy, repetitive brand of droney psychedelia. A constant kick drum sample is the heartbeat of their half-hour set. Wounded Knee’s Drew Wright strums a two stringed guitar over the top – any other strings would be unnecessary. He quickly establishes a driving, propulsive rhythm of minimal simplicity, locking trance-like into a groove and refusing to change chords for ten minutes. He sings strongly, powerfully. Unwavering shamanic chants reverberating through the walls, through our bones. Dylan Mitchell provides foreground sonic chaos – he marshals waves of noisy oscillation, his effected guitar feeding back on itself, rising and falling unstoppably. They jam for the full thirty minutes without changing the formula. Some are clearly into it and beat the air hypnotically; some, the majority stand apathetic, unmoved by the pair’s trip.

The reaction is not so mixed when The Ex arrive. They are immediately commanding and frenetic, post-punk clatter duelling with Terrie Hessels’ noisy guitar freakouts. Hessels provides visual energy to accompany his tortured playing – that he breaks a string in the first song is instructive of the passion with which The Ex perform. Andy Moor is similarly physical as he wrenches huge slabs of industrial bass from his butchered baritone guitar. Amidst this punkish danger stands Arnold de Boer whose simple guitar lines and deadpan vocals seem slightly at odds with the music around him. By the end of the show he’s visibly into it a lot more; when, earlier, he shouts “Shut up!” you want to believe in the anger of the chorus but never do.

Their set feels relatively short and the tone never changes – only on At The Top Of My Lungs do things slow down, drummer Katherina Bornefeld emerging from behind her kit for lead vocal duty. She is the star of the show – her rhythms are inventive and off-kilter yet remain inescapably danceable. The advantages of being around for so long are evident though: every song is a belter and warmly received from a crowd of die-hard fans and the usual Summerhall curio crowd. Four Billion Tulip Bulbs sets intricate guitar duelling against formidable rhythmic pummel; De Boer comes alive in That’s Not A Virus and by the time we reach Maybe I Was The Pilot we chant along with him: “All the pilots get rich/All the passengers pay for it”. It’s angry, clever and oddly funky. In other words, The Ex in a nutshell. May they continue for another thirty years.

Reviews by Sam Forbes

Summerhall

Borderlands

★★★★
Summerhall

The Ex

★★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

You're Not Like the Other Girls Chrissy

★★★★
Cafe Camino

Woolly Eyed Turtle 3D

★★★★
Summerhall @ Tom Fleming Centre

To Sleep To Dream

★★★★★
Zoo Southside

Quiet Violence

★★★★

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The Blurb

The adventurous and inspiring Dutch punk/noise/jazz quartet have defied categorisation for over 33 years. Operating completely independent of record companies, managers or roadies – using guitars, bass, drums and voice as their starting point, The Ex have continued to musically explore undiscovered areas.

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