Thursday, 27 August 2015

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015 Music Reviews - The Ex - Summerhall - Four stars / Skatgobs - Garage - Four stars

One of the biggest musical draws on this year's Fringe has been Summerhall's Nothing Ever Happens Here programme, so named in ironical homage to those who mistakenly believe Edinburgh to be a musical desert and to City of Edinburgh Council's ongoing lack of civic will towards live music.

By far the most interesting date was the return of The Ex, the Amsterdam-based quartet who have been marrying angular punk guitar noises to African rhythms for more than thirty years. With strong Edinburgh roots care of guitarist Andy Moor, who formerly played in the capital's own wonky punk auteurs, Dog Faced Hermans, The Ex's first Edinburgh date in twelve years in a co-production with experimental music promoters Braw Gigs was a prodigal's return to be reckoned with.

Opening the show were My Two Dads, a knowingly named collaboration between Drew Wright, aka solo troubadour Wounded Knee, and Dylan Mitchell, formerly of Pet. With both men on guitars and Wright giving vent to his full-vented reinvention of traditional waulking songs, what emerged was an extended set of spaced-out rhythms that looked to Germany's kosmische-styled scene for a rollingly hypnotic display of open-ended Caledonian drone.

The Ex were a picture of intensity and discipline that ricocheted around the room with furious delight. With vocalist Arnold de Boer having moved into the slot previously held by G.W. Wok, Andy Moor and Terrie Hessels' guitars chug out insistent soundscapes over a percussive backdrop provided by drummer Katherina Bornefeld. Bornefeld also tag teamed with de Boer on vocals in a way that recalled the scatty yaps of Essential Logic's Lora Logic as Moor and Hessels' lurched off into abstract corners culled from the cutting edges of Europe's free undergrond.

While any punk fury of yore has given way to an engaging warmth, this is nevertheless a breathlessly timeless display of DIY ethics and aesthetics writ large. If only Moor and artist Marion Coutts, in attendance tonight, would reform Dog Faced Hermans and share a stage with The Ex again, it might possibly inspire a revolution.

The night before in an Edinburgh New Town lane, Edinburgh Art Festival's Garage initiative hosted Skatgobs, a glorious cross-generational alliance between veteran freeform vocalist Phil Minton with Dylan Nyoukis and Luke Poot, both exponents of the same sort of primal jabber that Minton has been pioneering for the best part of half a century.

Opening this show were The Y Bend, a cheekily named trio culled from the ranks of The A Band, the UK's most out-there free improv ensemble. Over half an hour using guitar, cello and keyboards, the trio eked out a curiously warm if wilfully slapdash set of noises that were giddily child-like in execution.

Minton, Nyoukis and Poot sat in chair in a row, with Minton at the centre flanked by his two proteges. The noises that emerged from the three mens' mouths was a surprisingly low-key and often entertaining barrage of wordless symphonies that ebbed and flowed into cartoon-like life as mini call and response narratives were set up in sketch-like performances. Again, however constructed each section was, there was a wonderful purity in watching the trio let rip with each other before coming to a close by way of a raging calm.

The Herald, August 27th 2015

ends

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