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Playing a hybrid of punk to advance their liberal socialist agenda (serving as the rough equivalent of a Dutch Crass), the Ex put out reams of records and propaganda during the '80s — each released on a different Dutch label — but in the '90s began to embrace industrial forms of percussion and improvisation more in line with Einstürzende Neubauten and Test Dept. Formed in the late '70s, the group debuted at the turn of the decade with Disturbing Domestic Peace. The year 1983 was particularly busy; two proper albums were released (Tumult and Blueprints for a Blackout) plus the singles box Dignity of Labour and an EP, Gonna Rob the Spermbank.
Two more LPs appeared during the mid-'80s, after which the group formed their own Ex label in 1988 to release a compilation of their three Peel Sessions, Hands Up! You're Free. During 1990-1993, the Ex preoccupied themselves with projects: recordings with Dog Faced Hermans produced the cassette-only Treat, and a collaboration with noted avant-garde cellist Tom Cora resulted in 1991's Scrabbling at the Lock plus And the Weathermen Shrug Their Shoulders two years later. The group returned in 1995 with two major releases — a double CD of improvisational material called Instant, and the proper album Mudbird Shivers. Starters Alternators followed in 1998 and Spanish Revolution was issued two years later; they also completed their 20-member, big band project Ex Orkestra in 2000. Dizzy Spells, which the group recorded with Steve Albini, arrived the following spring.