The Ex | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader
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THE EX

Punk rockers who taught themselves how to play are a dime a dozen, but few make bliss of their ignorance like the Ex. The long-running lefty musical collective from Amsterdam built its punishing tribal assault from scratch as the members learned to play their instruments, and it still seems to grow more coloristically stratified with each release. The catalog of sounds guitarist Terrie coaxes, squeezes, and hammers out of his ax on The Laughing Owl (Atavistic), his recent album of knotty, chaotic duets with legendary Dutch jazz percussionist Han Bennink, is a gleaming testimonial to intuition; the record captures him at his most free, but the same unconventional techniques facilitate the Ex's tight but complex approach to rock. The band's latest album, Dizzy Spells (Touch and Go), is driven by drummer Katrin's martial rhythms and Luc's rock-solid super-low-end bass grind, while Terrie and fellow guitarist Andy flesh out the songs with damped flicks, dissonant hoedowns, metallic harmonics, and other twisted textures, usually timed to create delicious friction with the drums. The Ex are one of the few rock bands I'd really like to hear a remix of--if only to examine each component better. The focal point of the recording remains singer G.W. Sok, who continues to spew anticapitalist rhetoric with religious fervor, but live the band is one remarkable blur of motion and intensity. They share the bill for these sold-out shows with indie paragons Fugazi and Shellac, whose recent 1000 Hurts (Touch and Go) seems to reflect a return to structured songwriting (after the dull dynamic experiments of Terraform); it might be their best album. Saturday, June 23, 6 PM, and Sunday, June 24, 5 PM, Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee; 773-539-9429.

PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Lex von Rossen.

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