Pardon the football analogy (I’m trying to make my way through the Dead Zone between the Superbowl and College Spring games, okay?) but The Ex are like the New England Patriots: capable of contention no matter how many personnel changes they go through.
The Ex are now a three guitar band and they’ve supplemented this recording with a little trumpet from Roy Paci. In many ways, the heart of the band is Katherine Bornefeld’s drumming. For all the slashing of the guitars or the references to congotronics styles the drumming is what motivates and holds Catch My Shoe together. Arnold de Boer’s vocals follow along with it, the guitars play off it and it holds the center of the recording. The Ex are a rhythmic band in a way their still-active peers (let’s say Sonic Youth, Shellac, The Dead C.) will never be.
But to get back to my New England Patriots analogy, as good as The Ex are I can’t help but feel that they are past their peak. Able to go two deep into the playoffs but come up short of the Superbowl, if you know what I mean.
The vocals are flat and not as effective as G.W. Sok’s were in the past. The horn parts on Catch My Shoe are strictly for coloring and there really isn’t any interplay with the guitars. The album wouldn’t suffer if they were absent. The drumming often falls into a shuffling vamp that doesn’t seem to inspire any take off. I can’t help but feel that The Ex Orkest recordings offer something bigger and wilder than Catch My Shoe. Does that mean this is a “bad” record? Not at all—you can do far worse, and of course, one should always make an effort to see The Ex play live.
That said, I’ll be waiting to see if any recordings of The Ex with Brass Unbound (ie. Ken Vandermark, Mats Gustafsson and Wolter Wierbos) surface with a little more excitement than I can muster for this. [Ex Records]
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