The Ex & Ken Vandermark, Bear Claw, Invisible Things | Lincoln Hall | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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The Ex & Ken Vandermark, Bear Claw, Invisible Things 

When: Wed., Oct. 21, 8 p.m. 2015
Price: $15
Since forming in 1979, Dutch art-punk band the Ex have worked with all sorts of collaborators, whether traditional musicians from Ethiopia or free improvisers from across Europe and the U.S. The group’s latest full-length, The Ex at Bimhuis (1991-2015) (Ex/Bimhuis), is a two-CD celebration of such partnerships recorded live at the Amsterdam creative-­music venue of its title. The Ex have held fast to their agitprop roots, but those tendencies have had to coexist with an increasingly insatiable curiosity that’s driven the group into new territory. Their interest in international music goes beyond a well-­documented adoration for African sounds (they continue to work with Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria) to include Kurdish, Turkish, and Hungarian traditions, among others, and it’s prompted intuitive, organic transformations in the Ex’s songs that push them into a no-man’s-land between genres. The members of the band are also autodidacts in free improvisation and other forms of experimentation, and have collaborated with heavies such as Ab Baars, Wolter Wierbos, and Han Bennink. In 2013 the Ex released the fantastic Enormous Door, where a high-octane horn section called Brass Unbound (saxophonists Ken Vandermark and Mats Gustafsson, trombonist Wierbos, and trumpeter Roy Paci) enhanced a wide range of original and traditional material from the group’s vast repertoire with sharp charts and freewheeling improvisation. For the Ex’s first U.S. tour in four years, the four core members—guitarists Terrie Hessels and Andy Moor, drummer Katherina Bornefeld, and vocalist and guitarist Arnold de Boer—will be joined by Vandermark alone, which ought to provide more opportunities for unbridled spontaneity in their incendiary set.
— Peter Margasak



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