The Ex in Ethiopia

Brian Turner at WFMU just turned me on to a band from the Netherlands called The Ex, who were just on tour in Ethiopia. Here’s how they describe themselves:

Formed in 1979, The Ex has developed over the years into a melting-pot of diverse musical styles: noise, rock, jazz, improvisation, and ethnic musics have been interweaved under one unique umbrella: “Ex-music”. Discordant, highly rhythmic guitars, the rolling, almost African drumming style, and the intense delivery of the often ironic lyrics give the music of The Ex its special character.

So far, in almost 30 years, The Ex has played 1371 concerts all over Europe, North America and Africa, and released over 20 albums. Never pigeon-holed into one of pop music’s corny corners, The Ex is continuously in development, and always open for new ideas and collaborations with people of all kinds, people whose spirit inspires and appeals to the group. The main principle remains; to make music with heart and soul, out of reach of commercial trends or expectations. The consequent independent approach of the group and the manner in which they organize their concerts and release and distribute their records themselves, has set a significant example for the alternative music circuit.

And, more importantly, here’s how they sound.

The first video shows the group on stage at the Yared Music School with Mats Gustafsson & Paal Nilssen-Love. The second is of the band at the Kokobe Tsiba School with Getatchew Mekuria.

I have no idea what their other stuff is like, but I thought that was pretty fucking cool. [Sure, they’re no Refuse Stealing Kukana Kuba Band, but they’re pretty damned good.]

It’s occasionally good to be reminded of just how insanely good music can be, once all the bullshit, posturing and money is stripped away.

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  1. Posted March 6, 2011 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    I needed to write this post after finishing the last one. I needed to write about something that didn’t depress me… Thanks for listening.

  2. Edward
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    According to Wikipedia, they have an EP entitled “All Corpses Smell the Same”.

  3. Jeff
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Glad you’ve found The Ex, Mark. They’re gods (and goddesses). Check out, for starters, _Starters and Alternators_, which was produced, of all people, by Steve Albini. Its first track opens with these lines:

    “Let me tell you about Karl Marx
    Visionary fish in a pool sharks . . .”

    They also, to my knowledge, are the only Left Punk band to set to music (beautifully and powerfully) a canonical poem by a famous mainstream American poet: Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Art of Losing.”

  4. Jeff
    Posted March 7, 2011 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Speaking of The Ex: for those of you who don’t know, this place is the motherlode of radical inspiration (books, videos, music); they released The Ex’s book-album about the Spanish Civil War:

  5. Posted March 7, 2011 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    I received an email from a person who also likes their stuff. He had the following to add to our conversation. As I didn’t ask him if I could reproduce his note, I’m putting it up here anonymously.

    …they’re incredible, and rare (in my opin) for their being both punk but also incredibly politically-literate. Activist art rock that isn’t, ultimately, artistically flaccid like The Coup or Michael Frante or Rage, etc. They’re like a Dutch Sonic Youth, if . . . Sonic Youth had politics.

    They have the raw infectious energy of the Sex Pistols; but w/ an intellectual component that’s lacking in SP lyrics.

  6. Kevin Terp
    Posted March 10, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Great band. Here they are playing live on WFMU.

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