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Excepter - Self Destruction

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Artist: Excepter

Album: Self Destruction

Label: Fusetron

Review date: Oct. 12, 2005

Nary has a review of any of the three Excepter releases run – including this Self Destruction, their latest – that doesn’t mention drugs. Of these, the mentions rarely get beyond the following types of write-offs:

a. “They’re doing them so we don’t have to”
b. “What are they on and where can we get some? LOL. This music is so weird we cannot understand it. But … drugs! *nudge nudge wink wink*”

Either way, it makes writing on music such as theirs feel like more of an indictment than an appreciation, like the reviewers are informants and the band members – cult leader John Fell, right-hand man Dan Hougland, mouthpiece Caitlin Cook, instrumentalist Calder Martin and Nathan Corbin on synth – are wild, unrestrained agitators and conspirators begging to be caught. It’s almost as if anyone involved with even so much as listening to this music and forming an educated opinion of it, indicts themselves with an understanding of counterculture and nights lost to substance abuse in doing so.

But can we remove that stigma, and still assess the music? Can we trace the thought patterns without copping out on dope? We can. Nay, we should, because so few others clearly seem up to the task. In much the same way that I can only guess Self Destruction was made, I’m reminded of my first time viewing Dusan Makavejev’s 1974 film Sweet Movie – a collection of unforgettable images of the carnal and sensual that left me with more questions about the creative process than I had answers for. How do you explain to a crew the ways in which you can show things that are in your own head, and possibly never in any others? And to what quantity? To keep it happening over and over, to never leave your audience for want of surprise or astonishment?

In a way, that’s where Excepter comes in with their army of machines and routines, building on themes of comfort and familiarity and then slicing them lengthwise, filling them with the confusion, anxiety, and excitement of a life well-lived, and an understanding of the struggle required to achieve that state of bliss. There are words to describe these feelings, and those words are used throughout the band’s works, but good luck trying to decipher them; to the group, the human voice is used as another instrument to be controlled, time-extended, layered and obscured into the crackle of life. You’d be better off reading product labels, or the Bible. No, there’s something at stake here that the words can’t say out loud.

So here is one assessment: the two sides to Self Destruction represent daytime activity and nightlife freedom, from whence we go to work and do things that we have to do, and then tend to ourselves afterwards, doing that which we want to do. Side one represents the former, with the record at its loudest and most nervous right at the outset; “Shoot Me First” roils in a swarm of chanting, hi-pass filter buzzing and channel sweeps, reverberating percussion and the repetition of a three-note theme which espouses science, fiction, and the embroiling of the two. It’s as hectic as this album gets, echoing the sort of discomfort that comes with riding on crowded public transportation during a storm, when the press of interpersonal contact takes on a much more humid, unpleasant feel. No one is happy, nothing is fine, this isn’t home, this isn’t bed; therefore, this is a threat. Continuing on is the 10-minute “Bad Vibration,” following the paths set by a six-note bass vacuum vamp and an unchanging, disconnected percussion blather. These parallel lines, though entirely separate, could not exist in this track without one another, and their fading in and out of one another only serves to illustrate the power of absence. Atop this backing floats more moaning vocals and disembodied whistling, concrete tones, static, and ghostly synth sawing into cascading, pulsing transmissions that represent the drudgery of work, and the surprises that, for better or worse, occur in this period of time which is not now, nor will ever be, wholly yours. Things break, people emote, instructions are taught and learned, and frustration occurs, all at (hopefully) a low and painless simmer. Closing out is “I Don’t Get Wet in the Rain,” which follows its existential title with a floating, beatless cloud of comfortable numbness. Nothing’s wrecking your time escaping and going home, but the stress levels in the music are palpable.

Then, breaking almost cleanly off from the proceedings, the party gets started on side two. “BB+B (for 2B ÷ 2C)” feels busy and rushed by comparison, but coolly calculated and entertainingly so, as the tension created in the opening suite starts to dissipate. Bass frequencies roll up over and down under the clearly audible range as drum patterns bounce comfortably between dubular pursuits and straight up bangin’. Pings of squelch and scratch creep through as a measure of the beat gets louder, more in time, more into your own headspace. Words about chaos and battles are grunted under laser warfare, and the squelch becomes tonal. This is a good kinda warfare. Annihilate this weak. Get back in your own mind. Then enter into society once again with two halves of “Interplay.” Part one, “Back Room,” leads us into a downtempo, cowbelled chill space where many things are possible. “I’m flippin’ out of you,” mumbles Fell, amidst cheers to “come on.” As the low frequencies begin to coalesce and form positive electronic warm fuzziness, they bass out just as quickly. At last, triumph surfaces on part two, “Your House” – the sounds give notice of a victorious night and the clapping sounds you hear are humans being successful at humanity, where the music becomes beautiful and as close to techno completion as possible. To the layman, this will play out like TV on the Radio’s EP, minus the orchestration, the drama, or the pretense; it all blurs together in this amniotic, backlit, resonant mix of electrons bouncing off one another, of ones and zeroes rolling down in all the right places. The rewards of career perils and ennui play out in the warmth of another body and the time afforded you to create your own adventures. (Is this analysis correct? Does it matter? It works.)

Excepter is where you end up when you listen a lot, when you’ve made your mind up about hundreds of things so as to be educated, informed, cultured. Yet Excepter doesn’t require such criteria to enjoy it, though every little bit helps. Herein lies the conflict: how to get there (understanding) from here (chaos) in your own mind, and how to communicate it to others? Self Destruction doesn’t answer this so much as it accomplishes, creating an aural narrative through disparate and discomforting sound sources.

By Doug Mosurock

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