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Han Bennink & Terrie Ex: The Laughing Owl

Mark Corroto By

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This reviewer hesitates to give advice on how to listen to any particular recording, but this collection of duos between Terrie Ex and Han Bennink contains almost too much information, too much energy, to digest in one, straight-through listening experience.

Bennink, the nearly 60 year-old Dutch drummer and artist has recorded with large ensembles (ICP Orchestra), in Peter Brotzmann’s Machine Gun, in quartets, trios (hope you have discovered the Clusone 3), and numerous solo settings. His duo, with the likes of Misha Mengelberg, Steve Beresford, Evan Parker, and Dave Douglas, reveal an extremely creative and restless mind. This session with Terrie Ex of the Dutch political punk band/activists, The Ex, pushes the concept of free improvisation into the aggressive arena, not with excessive noise as much as the physical sounds of a percussionist meeting a human guitar wrestler.

The seventeen tracks, two-thirds of which are under two and ½ minutes, blast forth from a dead stop into quickly organized sound. Bennink’s drum kit pulses streams of energy only to stop on a dime (or a Gelder) and change directions. Terrie Ex doesn’t so much play the guitar as exercises it, more WWF than jazzercise.

Together, Bennink a man of a thousand schtiks and Ex with his deconstructed chords, avoid familiar covers opting for raw sound. The shorter pieces feel like spontaneous musical haikus while the lengthier tracks perhaps evolve around prearranged ideas. “Het Spook en de Kaas” opens with Bennink applying a mallet beat and blowing a toy whistle to Ex’s thunderous delivery. Bennink switches to drumsticks and a furious race develops. Terrie Ex brings forth a beat, a non-guitar pulse that parallels Bennink. Neither musician backs down in these frontal assaults. Like the entire affair the song has a great beat, but you wouldn’t want to attempt a dance.


Track Listing: Kieft; Demp; Buus; Kluft; Het Spook en de Kaas; Knijt; Tzwet & Tkalf; Twototango; Tuk; Song Of The Slender Moa; Tk; The Laighing Owl; Skots & Skeef; Zeepijn; Dug; Glenfbij; Taailing.

Personnel: Han Bennink

Title: The Laughing Owl | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Atavistic Worldwide


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