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Excepter - Alternation

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Artist: Excepter

Album: Alternation

Label: 5 Rue Christine

Review date: Jul. 17, 2006

Maybe this is what disco sounds like from inside the womb. I guess it's too late to find out.

The Brooklyn outfit Excepter has made a considerable rep without releasing anything that felt like a proper album. Its previous discs were more like “projects,” driving in a single idea, lacking in expansive structure, and running out too quickly. The hour-plus Alternation distills the band’s previous work and feels like more of an adventure than an idea. In that sense, it is indeed the “debut” that its gassy hype suggests it is.

Regardless, it’s a thrillingly hard record to peg. Nothing Excepter does is exactly new, and it’s easy to find calculating cynicism here if you’re looking for it. But its fusion of early Prince’s icy funk, early Bugskull’s lonesome wanderlust, the Residents’ cartoon gloom and the rudimentary swagger of “silver age” hip hop is so perfect for the times, it’s a wonder anyone thought of it. The cassette-tastic “underwater” sound gives it a creepy layer of remove, making it (at least at first brush) appropriately disorienting. Like much “experimental noise,” it’s disorientation in reverse; it clears the room so that only the willing may witness its gospel. If you’re able to sit still for it, Excepter gives you plenty of whatever you were looking for.

Bandleader and vocalist (I wouldn’t call him a “singer”) John Fell Ryan often sounds like he’s mumbling in his sleep, like a child who’s compellingly confident in his ramblings and ignorant about much of what they imply. Like a child, he’s prone to free association and unfunny stoner humor. (Consider the gag “I’d like to introduce our machines to you / But I forgot their names” and the entirety of the absurd, catchy “The Rock Stepper.”) But he’s no one’s kid, and Excepter knows pretty much exactly what it’s doing. That’s the only reason it would call one of its selections “Op Pop"; an innocent, drug-soaked outsider would wait for a critic to call it that.

From certain angles and in certain lighting conditions, Fell may look like the sleaziest sort of ironist. But there’s sentimental regret in Excepter’s glassy nihilism and urban claustrophobia. It was said of Lenny Bruce that he killed a part of himself to let the rest of the organism live, and was thus “hip.” Accepting that definition, Alternation may speak to those who come by their particular hipness honestly. It mourns its missing parts.

This is the record that went dumpster diving, found Anton Newcombe’s corpse, and immediately got way into hip hop. This record believes it has seen it all, and would prefer not to discuss it much further, but doesn’t see why the party should die.

By Emerson Dameron

Other Reviews of Excepter

Vacation/Forget Me


Self Destruction

Streams 01

Debt Dept.


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View all articles by Emerson Dameron

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