Jun 28, 2008

THE EX: 1936, The Spanish Revolution (1986)

“I wanted nothing and don’t want anything to do with order, rank orders and commands. I am as I am, a peasant who learned to read in prison, who experienced pain and death closeby, who was an anarchist without knowing it, and today, now that I know, I am even more anarchist than yesterday, when I killed to be free” from Nosotros – anarchist daily – march 1937 (in 1936 booklet).

The squats of the 80’s must had been a remarkably fertile place of exciting experiments, especially for such in the cultural field; any argument to this would eventually had to cope (and) with the case of The Ex.

The band was formed in 1979, a time when the punk explosion is in its peak, and its birthplace is the Dutch (more precisely those of Amsterdam) squats. The Ex started as a lo-fi anarcho-punk, moving gradually, through the decades, to post-punk/no wave experimental work, lately absorbing a wide range of influences, often from non Western (Hungarian and Turkish folk songs and recently African music- including music from Congo, Ethiopia and Eritrea) and non rock sources, and marked by collaborations such as with the avant-garde cellist Tom Cora in the early 90’s and with members of Sonic Youth, Dutch improvisers ICP and UK anarchist band Chumbawamba.

Their work, 1936, The Spanish Revolution, is a result of addiction, devotion, admiration, love and, I would dare to say, continuousness; it is probably the rare and privileged moment in which the aesthetic view, the political thesis and the practice of everyday action towards the world are merged into a unique peek point; a point that shines equally as an accomplishment and as a paradigm.

The Spanish Revolution was released in 1986 with two 7΄΄ records (containing four songs), accompanied by a 144 pages book. The songs are punk reworking of folk Spanish anarchist fight songs, and the book, containing mostly b&w photographs and short texts (in Dutch and English), epics the story of the short lived (1936-1939) success of large-scale anarchy in Spain.

The vinyls

The book focuses on the CNT (Confederatión National del Trabajo) [National Labor Confederation] and FAI (Federatión Anarquista Ibérica) [Iberian Anarchist Federation] action during the years of the Spanish Civil War, two organizations that formed the hard core of anarchist movement in Spain at that time. This action is presented in several fields, fields that also form the book’s structure; what is shortly depicted are these: the origins and the beginning of the revolution, the collectivization in the economic and the social field, the effect that revolution had in culture, the developments in the front and the impact that international relations and the tension ( and more often conflicts ) among communist - socialists and anarchists had to these developments, and finally the causes and the chronicle of the revolution’s failure.

The Ex does not pretend to have accomplished a historical or scientific task, and they make this clear soon enough. They also deny any claim of objectivity: “…Thus [ the foto collection] it is a compilation: neither chronological nor objective, but one-sided, partial and subjective. Only from the anarchist’s side…” Instead, they point out their aim, which has a double character: firstly, to show “…how much pleasure, imagination, devotion and energy the Spanish anarchists put in their effort to destroy once and for all the damned class of boots, ties and crucifixes…”, the fact that this attempt to revolution “…saw an explosion of creativity which only takes place when you’re finally able to conceive of something and follow through on it –to arrange your own life without hate and greed, without competition and oppression…” and finally how this effort “…was immediately attacted, terrorized and destroyed by the state and the bourgeoisie…”. Secondly, their aim is targeting to diagnose the similarities between the Spanish experiment and the present: “…For us the Spanish revolution is not just an event or incident, not just a chapter in a history book. It’s an attempt similar to what we are doing now: trying to get rid of this imposed shit system…”. With that, the conclusion comes by the Ex as an afterword: for them, the anarchist experiment of the 30’s shows that “…it certainly is possible to bring an anarchist society into practice…”.

Slideshow of some of the pictures from the book

Apart from the question about whether the Ex’s conclusion is right or not, their effort is definitely sincere, interesting and I would add beautiful: it is an example of how talent, will, inspiration and the proper environment can combine to produce a kind of art where different expression means can cooperate for the creation of a unique aesthetic result, an aesthetic result which surpasses the boundaries between traditional art fields, surpassing, in this way, and the traditional worries about the division of form and content. It is worth mentioning that the whole project (the production, the recording, the book’s design and printing, even the distribution) is carried out by the band and the squat’s facilities only, without the participation of external aid; it is like if the Ex are retrieving, with a gap of 50 years, the thread of Spanish anarchists self-organise practices to launch them, with new and different means but with the same appetite and aiming, into the present and further. The Ex’s effort, as I said already above, shines as a paradigm, a paradigm that shows the path for the way things should be handled; both in art and life.

“Reality and dreaming are different things. Dreaming is beautiful and sublime because dreams are nearly always the predecessors of what is to came, but the most sublime is to make life beautiful, to mould life beautifully” from Nosotros - march 1937 (in 1936 booklet)

The Ex:
Luc – bass, guitar, backing-vocals
Kat – drums, handclapping, backing-vocals
Terrie – guitars, handclapping, backing-vocals
G. W. Sok – voice
John – voice, backing-vocals, handclapping
Dolf – guitar, handclapping
Cobie – handclapping, backing-vocals

Recorded March 9-13, 1986 in Emma’s Koeienverhuurbedrijf.
EX 028/029 – Prodused by Dolf & The Ex – 45 rpm.
Low Noice Music/ c The Ex 1986.

The Songs

They Shall Not Pass

El Tren Blindado

Ay Carmela

People Again

Shine like the revolution here 

* Thanks to paramo for providing the material
Some useful links:
Desire is Speaking (Utopian Rhizomes), an article from Do or Die
in HTML and PDF format ( the PDF format contains also the article No Rent, No Government – Stories of Squatting and the article Practical Squatting) – All these about squats
The Spanish Civil War article in Wikipedia
Anarchism In Spain article in Wikipedia
Generally about Anarchism: Open Directory Project with lots of (and theoretical) articles
CNT official page (in Spanish)
FAI articles in libcom.org


Capa Nostra said...

Thanks for the comment, I see you have an excelent blog here. Just added you to my links.

Greetins from Chile.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to download it.
The Ex. One of the few original ARTISTS.
Thanks La Folie Du Jour, and please, do the best (and fast) you can do, about the link.
Thanks again

paramo said...

ola chile!
link for 1936 now ok.

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paramo said...

The Ex "Spanish Revolution" singles now reuped!

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