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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 “electronic performance group” Excepter may have been hurt by its association with the humor, aesthetics and vibe of turn-of-the-century Brooklyn. There’s 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 there’s nothing particularly “psychedelic” about this stuff – it’s weird, but it’s 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. That’s 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 band’s sweeping, ambitious Alternation didn’t dispel that suspicion. In its strongest moments, it was frightfully disorienting; in its weaker moments, it still telegraphed a certain dopey aloofness. Excepter’s generous spirit has always come through in its business practices (releasing hours’ 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 hadn’t 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 it’s not a record that plays around. Four albums deep, Excepter has released its most resolute music, and it’s hot, and it’s dark and angry, and it’s 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 band’s Wax Trax heritage. It’s an ominous, repetitive dance record, not unlike the other ominous, repetitive dance records Excepter has done. But this doesn’t sound like disco would’ve sounded in the womb. This is scary. There’s no hazy distance. Maybe this is Excepter’s goth record. That doesn’t sound like much fun. But it’s tight, it’s dramatic, and it’s cathartic in its unrelenting gloom. And it’s still too surreal to rep any genre but Excepter.

The booming chant “Kill People” might be the closest Excepter has come to a single. Like the older stuff, it’s silly in its deliberate oddness, but its silliness is not half-assed, it’s over-the-top, and what Excepter’s aesthetic is good for. The balance is more abstract and jammy, but it’s 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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