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Posted at 01:01 PM ET, 03/14/2011

In concert: The Ex at Black Cat


For the Ex, the names may change, but the sound remains the same. (Josh Sisk/For The Washington Post)
Although the Ex has experienced lots of turnover — it has more than a dozen, well, ex-members — the Dutch anarcho-punk quartet hasn’t fundamentally changed. The 70-minute set the band played very late Saturday at the Black Cat continued the hypnotic uber-vamp that’s been its specialty for decades. It hardly mattered that most of the songs came from “Catch My Shoe,’’ the group’s latest album, and its first with new frontman Arnold de Boer. The pulsing guitars and thumping beats were timeless — or at least as classic as the Ex’s British post-punk models, which include Gang of Four and especially the Fall.

One advantage of the Ex’s implacable churn is that it offers a sturdy foundation for the band’s various collaborators, who have included free-jazz horn players, various African (usually Ethiopian or Eritrean) singers and even an avant-classical cellist. But no guests joined the group Saturday night. Melodic variations came from percussionist Katherina Bornefeld, who sang one tune in Amharic (from behind her drum kit) and another in Hungarian (from the front of the stage). The rest of the show was devoted to apocalyptic English-language taunts — “Are you shouting ‘freedom’ or rattling your chains?” asked the opening “Tree Float’’ — and three-guitar chatter.

Those guitars often seethed in unison but sometimes separated to define more intricate patterns. Terrie Hessels (the only remaining member of the band’s original 1979 lineup) played baritone guitar, which allowed him to inject bass lines. Andy Moor served as the closest thing to a lead player, but his flourishes tended to be more insistent than virtuosic.

If the Ex’s sound was more punk than jazz, its galloping totality allowed for any of the four musicians to become the focus, just as in a small jazz ensemble. Bornefeld mostly played Bo Diddley or Burundi beats but was able to depart from such elementary cadences as the guitars doggedly held the rhythm. While such songs as “Cold Weather Is Back’’ prophesied social disruption, the quartet’s music was constancy itself. Until, that is, the seemingly infinite groove suddenly took exactly the left turn listeners didn’t even know they were waiting for.








By Mark Jenkins  |  01:01 PM ET, 03/14/2011

Categories:  In concert | Tags:  The Ex

 
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