Terrie Ex is in constant motion, pin-balling from foot to foot and moving with the flow of his music in sudden bops and lunges. Andy Moor, on the other hand, stays mostly anchored, flicking out less percussive, serried riffs and jagged, unclassifiable noise clusters. But at one point they startlingly swoop in V formation on the centrifugal force that is Ken Vandermark, who has one foot forward to brace his back against drummer Paal Nilssen-Love’s pile-driving rhythmic impetus while tearing into a barnstorming sequence of tenor sax riffs.
This is free music at its most elemental, authoritative and exhilarating (imagine Sun Ra colliding with Gallon Drunk), with the spiky postpunk guitarists from The Ex amping up the electric potential in the Chicagoan sax/drums duo to thrilling effect.
As the Ex guitarists opened set one with a duet, set two begins with a short shot of essential Vandermark/Nilssen-Love, and at length covers a broader, more impressionistic canvas that allows for more digression and variegation of approach. Nilssen-Love played with frenetic precision throughout though, carrying the exhilaration of that explosive first set through to the end.
When he wasn’t wailing on tenor, Vandermark played with fiery eloquence on clarinet or more sinuously on baritone, drawing the fire out of Moor, whose lacerative style melded in turn with Ex’s gnarly frottage.
Amid all the fire and brimstone there was always space for telling detail, as when the tempo dropped and Ex bent forwards, allowing his guitar to weigh into it’s leather strap with a rhythmic squeak to counterpoint a biting electrical mote cloud Moor was producing with a brush over his pickups.
Ex’s guitar looks as much like some sea-wracked machine-age African fetish object as a musical instrument, with it’s various metal components seeming only loosely embedded. By the end of the gig, the hardwood body has acquired a patchy veneer of sweat.
Moor’s machine, with its protective, militant red lacquer, is stickered in classic postpunk style with alt culture messages; less art object, more workhorse perhaps, but don’t read too much into that.
Ken Vandermark will be back at Oto next week for a trio date with Ollie Brice and Mark Sanders, and then again with Paal Nilssen-Love as members of the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet, which will play two nights at OTO in early November. Terrie Ex and Andy Moor will be also be back, later the same month, with a three night residency for The Ex, with guests including Vandermark and local Ethiopian musicians.
London Jazz Festival 2012, part 1: Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet, Bushman’s Revenge, Albatrosh, SynKoke, Golden Age of Steam
The Ex and friends – The Ex 33.3 Year Anniversary Festival, December 2012
Full Blast & Friends – Sketches and Ballads
Sonore – Cafe OTO/London