Instants cover
  • Han Bennink - drums
  • Terrie Ex - guitar

I was getting so pissed off at what Terrie was doing... I couldn't make any relationship to what Han was doing... Random stuff, you know... Hearing Han, I was getting more and more irritated, like... will you just let Han play, because you're not listening... And there was a coffee cup on the stage and Han was playing on the ground and he threw it at Terrie... and Terrie was playing and... he caught it. And I thought, "I'm not hearing anything". He was so tuned in to what Han was doing, he didn't even have to look. So I just shut my brain off and watched and listened. And that was one of the most important concerts I ever saw, because it totally changed my idea about improvised music. — Ken Vandermark, on seeing Han Bennink + Terrie Ex play together for the first time.

If you have ever been exposed to one of those brain-melting performances by Han Bennink and Terrie Ex, you might be familiar with Ken Vandermark’s first impression and - hopefully - also the epiphany that followed it. There’s nothing predictable when encountering these two. Oh, they both have their familiar quirks and tics - you’ll get some ecstatic cries and giggles, some robust eruptions, karate chops and whatnots - but you are never in for a pre-chewed program. You don’t get the codified, professional and boring kind of European improvised music. Instead, you might get some musical magic.

It has been sixteen years since Zeng! and nearly a quarter century since The Laughing Owl were recorded, so it was about time these proud Zaankanters (their shared roots explain some of their uncanny affinity, though to what degree still remains vague) came up with another tangible proof of their exceptional chemistry. Recorded at Les Instants Chavirés, Montreuil's key venue for experimental music, it provided the album with the best title imaginable, as it can also refer to the legendary Instant Composers Pool that Bennink co-founded in 1967, to Instant (1995), the improvised double album by The Ex that he also plays on, or to brief time periods and occurrences of something happening. While the pieces here are not as compact as those little inflammable nuggets on The Laughing Owl, for instance, they share their giddy playfulness and the feeling of performing a crazy little dance next to a ravine.

Even at ages 80 and 67, these two were playing with the open-mindedness of unmanageable rascals, seizing every musical problem as an opportunity. Whether they solve it or offer solutions is another matter. Both Han and Terrie play exclusively by ear, armed with impeccable instincts. The only thing they could do with scores is tear them apart, as these two are masters of listening and responding. Action, reaction. The results are equally unfettered and spontaneous, even though there are moments galore that offer something to hold on to: some rolling grooves, little marches here and there, and funny effects, like Han sticking the sticks in his mouth and Terrie vacuuming the floor, but the overall impression is one of punkish abstraction.

Han’s old school drum kit and Terrie’s irreparable guitar are not just instruments. They are tools to kick-start your imagination and they rattle, scrape, howl, screech, squeak and rumble incessantly. It is like a game of musical hopscotch: sometimes there is a swift win, sometimes it is unclear until the very end who will come out on top, and occasionally the game will be disbanded halfway through. They are messing with expectations and conventions, always with some mischief and a grin, challenging you to do something about it. But don’t think they’re just doing random stuff, because right at that exact moment, you might realize they are swinging like hell or end up at the receiving end of a coffee cup. Catch! — Guy Peters


  • Side 1 - Instants 1 2 3 4 5
  • Side 2 - Instants 6 7 8 9 10
Han Bennink + Terrie Ex in concert Han Bennink + Terrie Ex chatting

Recorded live at Les Instants Chavirés, Montreuil (France) by Benjamin Pagier, September 22, 2022.

Mixed by Lena Hessels.
Mastered by Arnold de Boer.
Cut by Lex van Coeverden at The Vinyl Room.
Pressed at DiscoMat, Herk-de-Stad (Belgium).

All music by Han Bennink and Terrie Ex (Buma).

Cover art by Han Bennink.
Letterpress cover art by Harm van der Tuuk.
Photo by Geert Vandepoele.
Layout by Emma Fischer.
Liner notes by Guy Peters.

Thanks to JF and the Instants crew, Annemiek, Tom + André, ICP and The Ex.

Terp Improv Series IS-36

Han Bennink + Terrie Ex


LP. August 2023.

€16 from Ex Mailorder