the Ex, Follows, Ken Vandermark, Zerfu Demissie | Lincoln Hall | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

the Ex, Follows, Ken Vandermark, Zerfu Demissie Critic's Choice Early Warnings (Music) Member Picks Recommended Soundboard

When: Tue., March 8, 8 p.m. 2011

Catch My Shoe (Ex Records), the Ex's 25th album since forming in 1979, is their first full-length with new singer Arnold de Boer, who replaced original front man G.W. Sok in 2009. No one can match Sok when it comes to agitprop hectoring, but that doesn't necessarily make de Boer a liability. The Ex had outgrown Sok, who kept doing what he always did even as his bandmates' interests proliferated—as they moved from art-punk into improvisation and explored international folk melodies, he was increasingly marginalized. De Boer lacks Sok's ferocity and ear for political nuance—the global-warming rant on "Cold Weather Is Back" is rather prosaic by Ex standards—but he's better able to render actual melodies and can add a third guitar to the group's sound. The Ex have often been able to use personnel shakeups to foment progressive change—when double bassist Rozemarie Heggen replaced Luc Klassen in 2003, she helped open up the improv angle, and when she left in 2005, Andy Moor and Terrie Hessels started using baritone guitars to fill in the band's low end. Catch My Shoe is the clearest expression yet of the Ex's immersion in African music, which began more than a decade ago: the album's opener, "Maybe I Was the Pilot," derives its skittering three-guitar riff from an old Ugandan song; the rudely chiming guitars on "Double Order" mimic the distorted likembes of Konono No. 1; and "Eoleyo" (sung by drummer Katherina Bornefeld) is a traditional tune the band first heard on a cassette by Ethiopian star Mahmoud Ahmed. Italian trumpeter Roy Paci multitracks tart, martial trumpet lines on a couple of songs—he joined Ken Vandermark, Mats Gustafsson, and Wolter Wierbos last year in the horn section of the band's Brass Unbound project—but the heart of the music remains the busy, regimental throb of Bornefeld's drumming and Hessels and Moor's jagged, puzzle-piece guitars. Opening the show are Follows, Vandermark (who'll join the Ex for a few songs), and Zerfu Demissie, one of many artists Hessels has exposed to the West via his Terp label. Demissie plays a type of lyre called the begena, aka the Harp of King David, and on the cover of his album Akotet he's pictured with an especially large model, as big as a car door topped with a canopy bed's headboard; its wild, buzzy twang gives an otherworldly flair to his mesmerizing vocal melodies. 18+. —Peter Margasak

Price: $15

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