The Ex

Reviews

The Ex Dignity of Labour LP reissue

A release of this nature—an artistic info-dump essentially—would overshadow many lesser bands’ music. There are scads of hardcore and crust records throughout the ’80s and ’90s where the information provided is important and relevant, but the music itself is a grab-bag of forgettable songs and stereotypical genre exercises. Alas, the EX are in a class by themselves, even back in 1983. Released concurrently with the excellent Tumult LP, all eight “Sucked Out Chucked Out” takes are dense with grinding machinery, as the band pushes its sound beyond agit-punk and into more experimental territory, employing accordions and tape loops. Originally released as a 7” box set, Dignity of Labour was partially recorded in the remains of a Dutch paper factory that had stood since the 18th century, and even had played a role during the Netherlands’ battle against the Nazis. In the 1970s, the factory was purchased by a multinational corporation and began producing asbestos. In other words, a post-industrial death spiral, one which is detailed in the accompanying booklet. The EX soundtracks these events with rare prowess and raw ingenuity. As individual songs, these tracks aren’t as strong as the majority of the EX’s catalog, but taken together—as a material protest, as a piece of history, as an act of resistance—it is an impressive work.

The Ex Tumult LP reissue

The latest in Superior Viaduct’s continuing reissue crusade of the legendary Dutch band the EX. Tumult is their third LP, and on it, the band furthered the sonic experimentation they began on their previous release, Dignity of Labour. This era of the EX is the band expanding as musicians and artists, moving quickly away from the confines of punk rock and into the improvisational, genre-smearing world they’ve continued to express themselves in, implementing more noise as a song element and showing the influence of early industrial music like Z’EV or EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN in the thunderous and primal rhythms. Throughout the album, the drums are a highlight, with nary a 4/4 straight rock beat in sight. The bass grinds along percussively, focused on the repetitive march enforced by the drums. “Happy Thoughts” is an extraordinary track in this respect, like something out of an Adrian Sherwood/On-U production, the drums cut up and distorted to the point of sounding like a drum machine, building the syncopation to something militantly danceable. “Red Muzak” is a tidal wave of metallic sounds, rolling snares, and a crash cymbal like an exclamation point in the mix. Aside from the drumming across the album, you also hear Terrie Ex expanding his guitar palette away from traditional barre chords and single note riffs, using every part of the guitar to discover new ways of forcibly extracting sound, while also knowing when to bow out and let silence take over.

The Ex Disturbing Domestic Peace LP+7″ / History is What’s Happening LP reissues

The greatest anarcho-punk band of our time (or any time), the EX has consistently transcended a genre that’s often reduced to cliches of stencil fonts and high-contrast black and white war photos—through four decades and counting, they’ve collaborated with avant-garde cellists and Ethiopian jazz saxophonists, and experimented with free improvisation and ethnic folk music, and never once has any of it seemed disingenuous or forced. Their first two LPs, 1980’s Disturbing Domestic Peace and 1982’s History is What’s Happening, recently got the reissue treatment from Superior Viaduct, and within the EX’s sprawling catalog, they’re arguably the group’s most “conventional” and straightforward statements of intent. On their full-length debut, the EX laid down much of the basic furniture that would remain in place as the band regularly rearranged their musical floor plan in subsequent years—G.W. Sok’s intently ranted vocals and sloganeering lyrics, scratchy knife-edged guitar, tumbling, tightly-knotted rhythms. It’s a lean 22 minutes (not counting the bonus four-song live 7”) of smart agitprop punk fitting the Crass Records-modeled anarcho-ideal, but with an off-center volatility pointing to expanded horizons to come. History is What’s Happening bridges Disturbing Domestic Peace’s raw, square-one approach with much more of a sharp, angular post-punk influence, which would continue to color the band’s sound as they moved toward the ’90s—imagine GANG OF FOUR as Dutch squat-dwellers who would have never broached the idea of signing to a major, a central precept illustrated with scathing bluntness on the jagged, Entertainment!-referencing “E.M. Why” (“The gang of four smiles / They think that EMI’s their friend”). The EX allegedly chose their name because it was quick and easy to spray-paint on a wall, and despite the increasingly complex songwriting on the second LP, it’s still an obvious extension of the group’s original motivations, with each track-as-manifesto blazing through at about a minute or two a piece, just long enough to effectively deliver their points, no time for fucking around. Absolutely essential.

The Ex Too Many Cowboys 2xLP

The EX are a collective not unlike CRASS but their music is every bit as challenging as their message. This double LP takes intelligent topics and spreads them over SONIC YOUTH style drones into raw post-punk noises. With two exhaustive magazines.

The Ex The Spanish Revolution 2×7″

Actually much more than two 7” records, there is a full-fledged several hundred page, highly produced book sandwiched between them. The theme is obvious, covered from an anarchist post of view, printed in both English and Dutch. Musically, there are traditional Spanish songs updated in a CRASS-like manner – really vital. GREAT package.

The Ex Pokkeherrie LP

They’ve done it again. A fascinating LP chock full of goodies: poster, book, and militancy. While they maintain melody, dissonance, moodiness, and a hard edge, they continue to grow and encompass many styles. Before, they’ve reminded me of CRASS; now I’m hearing elements of the FALL and SONIC YOUTH, but hell, the EX have been playing as long if not longer. Their integrity is rock hard and dependable. Godhead!

The Ex Blueprints for a Blackout 2xLP

This is an amazingly meaty package. A graphic/lyric book, a poster, and two discs make this ominous piece quite remarkable. They plunder, explore, and ramble through many hideous subjects and musical flavors, from Christ: The Album-type CRASS opera to frightening industrial rhythm electronics like KOSMONAUTENTRAUM. If you’re familiar with the EX and like their work, this new release must be experienced from start to finish; if not, check it out.

The Ex / Alerta The Red Dance Package split 12″

Two Dutch bands join efforts on this four-song maxi-EP. ALERTA’s earlier material was extremely dissonant, but here they join the ranks of the SEX GANG CHILDREN/X-MAL DEUTSCHLAND school of new Euro-hits. On the other hand, the EX is now more aggressive than they’ve been in a while, even though they’ve always produced interesting post-punk. “Crap Rap” is a fast, thickly layered chant that sounds as if CRASS merged with the FALL, and I think it’s really great. An interesting and worthwhile offering.