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Vex Ruffin At The Echoplex, Tuesday February 12th 2013

Opening for Beak>, Vex Ruffin got immediately a big reaction from the crowd. Recently signed by Stones Throw, a label known for its hip-hop artists, Vex Ruffin’s music is quite difficult to qualify, somewhere between a raw aggressive grungy punk and some weird experimental electronic rock. Often dark, bizarre and bleak, their sound was just great and surprising at each song with a minimalist ethic, as the quartet consisted only of a drummer, a bass player, another guy manipulating a tiny electronic device, and Vex Ruffin on vocals, sometimes adding a guitar to the mix.

 

All this seemed quite simple at first, however they had that fantastic confidence and larger-than-the stage sound, while giving us a few of their violent groves, with big drums, monochord droning vocals and a few dance beats which didn’t remove anything from the sinister-aggressive atmosphere created.

 

They introduced even more weirdness with ‘I’m Creative’, a bleak slow-burn running around a drum loop, a throbbing bass line and some sick-lamenting vocals, almost hardcore in their delivery at times, almost Joy-Division-morose-abandon at other times. It was strange as their minimalist sound could evoke many different styles at the same time, or rather the essence of these styles, from new waves to hip hop, seen through punk glasses and a latent violence even hidden in the dance-y grooves. But this apparently simple combination of rhythmic bass-drum had a hypnotic mad effect on the crowd which began dancing during ‘Losing Control’, or ‘Overboard’. There was even a cow bell during one song and one very-punk song at the end of their set that would have fit on any 70s punk album except that it had this modern beat treatment.

 

Vex got signed after sending an unsolicited demo by mail to Peanut Butter Wolf who recalls: ‘It was kind of a fluke that I listened. I just liked the drawing on the cover so I decided to check it out. I called the phone number on the CD and Vex thought I was his friend playing a practical joke.’ Pretty incredibly, the band and its monster beats are now ready for Coachella! They made some strong impression on the Echoplex crowd on Tuesday night, and I bet we will hear more of their captivating sound.

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