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Excepter - Debt Dept.

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Artist: Excepter

Album: Debt Dept.

Label: Paw Tracks

Review date: Mar. 25, 2008

The ďelectronic performance groupĒ Excepter may have been hurt by its association with the humor, aesthetics and vibe of turn-of-the-century Brooklyn. Thereís something a tad off-putting about its elaborate self-mythology when coupled with its fuzzy, hypnotic music. Ringleader John Fell Ryan talks a lot of shit about conspiracies, mind control and psychic illumination, but thereís nothing particularly ďpsychedelicĒ about this stuff Ė itís weird, but itís relatively self-conscious, relatively conscious, relatively clever. Like a lot of its contemporaries, Excepter could be accused of fancying itself smart enough to act really, really dumb, and fancying everyone else dumb enough to sort of buy it. Thatís never been a fair characterization, but, as JFR might agree, perception often looks a lot like reality.

As much fun as it was to listen to, the bandís sweeping, ambitious Alternation didnít dispel that suspicion. In its strongest moments, it was frightfully disorienting; in its weaker moments, it still telegraphed a certain dopey aloofness. Excepterís generous spirit has always come through in its business practices (releasing hoursí worth of its strangest music through a free podcast) and its live show (love it or hate it, they fucking bring it). There had to be more to this band besides cheeky wiggy-weirdness, grand potential and a cold constellation of sublime moments. Maybe Excepter just hadnít quite hit its stride on wax.

If it never gets any better than Debt Dept., then Excepter came damned close to perfecting its formula. Debt Dept. is surrounded by the same sort of flummoxing PR as previous Excepter albs. But itís not a record that plays around. Four albums deep, Excepter has released its most resolute music, and itís hot, and itís dark and angry, and itís content within itself. The songs are both more solid and more complex in their structure. And the emotions flood the intellect.

While previous records could sound like the Residents with a Robert Anton Wilson reading list and a Vice sense of humor, Debt Dept. is the first Excepter record to highlight the bandís Wax Trax heritage. Itís an ominous, repetitive dance record, not unlike the other ominous, repetitive dance records Excepter has done. But this doesnít sound like disco wouldíve sounded in the womb. This is scary. Thereís no hazy distance. Maybe this is Excepterís goth record. That doesnít sound like much fun. But itís tight, itís dramatic, and itís cathartic in its unrelenting gloom. And itís still too surreal to rep any genre but Excepter.

The booming chant ďKill PeopleĒ might be the closest Excepter has come to a single. Like the older stuff, itís silly in its deliberate oddness, but its silliness is not half-assed, itís over-the-top, and what Excepterís aesthetic is good for. The balance is more abstract and jammy, but itís dark like dub is dark. It gets out of its own head. And it has a lot of fun as the facade caves in.

By Emerson Dameron

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