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Excepter - Streams 01

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Artist: Excepter

Album: Streams 01

Label: Fusetron

Review date: Jun. 15, 2007

Excepter’s recent Streams release, a re-sequencing of archival materials, bears the imprint of multiple edits. Cut from the whole cloth of four years’ (2002-2006) worth of live activity, Streams takes its name and source material from a series of podcasts (see excepter.podomatic.com) presented by group founder/frontman John Fell Ryan. Robert Girardin, a friend of the band, edited and sequenced the first 36 streams to create this two-disc set. The original source material itself is an unknown quantity, as these podcasts represent only a fraction of the material recorded by the ever-prolific, archive-crazy Brooklyn quartet.

It’s appropriate considering the name Excepter is a play on the word and concept of the Selector, a Jamaican music term equivalent to DJ. Excepter, present here in various lineups – Ryan and Dan Hougland being the only constants – has had from its first releases an impressively consistent track record of living up to its own cleverness. While the Selector’s goal is to demolish a rival crew at a sound clash by playing a set of the freshest versions available, Excepter pits itself against itself, cutting out recognizable musical content (hence the unfortunate “noise” moniker) and leaving a massive, queasily churning echo chamber. Excepter is not ahead of or behind its time, but deliberately out of joint.

It makes sense, then, that Excepter's most successful record to date, Alternation, was on its face both the group's most extroverted (cf. unprecedented jam "The Rock Stepper") and its most paranoiac, obsessive and claustrophobic work. The title is telling: it's just as much a matter of oscillation between boneless riddims and weirdly passive choler as it is an elliptical attempt to limn, like, another country altogether, the 'dubble' of the contemporary US and its constituent systems. On tracks like the aptly-titled "Apt. Living," Ryan's voice creeps along with the conviction that he's being watched: not by his neighbors, but by the objects in his own apartment.

True to form, the 21 tracks presented here never go to the romantic lengths of a "psychic secession," but represent a concise summary of the band’s mission statement: to hang the listener up with a slow simmer of unease that refuses positive identification. Lyrically, nothing on Streams has the level of narrative consistency evidenced on album tracks like “Ice Cream Van.” But for those fearing Excepter’s creep up the CMJ charts and indie orthodoxy, Streams reaffirms Excepter as the least teleological – which in this case also means the least rock – band among its Brooklyn peers. Unlike Animal Collective or Gang Gang Dance, Excepter’s songs have never reached anything resembling resolution: the idea of music as a conduit for the kinds of emotion elicited in pop music seems totally alien in their universe.

Like any good dub producer, the band thrives on re-using material (see the familiar “BB+B” drum machine pattern pop up in disc-one opener “F Sound/BB+B2”) in new spatial contexts. Throughout its run time, these two discs easily stand up to the retina-splitting concentration of Alternation or the self-loathing house of Self Destruction, not to mention the LED soundsystem Sunbomber EP. The white noise that accumulated on debut KA and Drone threatened to bury the band’s more interesting quirks. Even the earliest pieces here evidence the same sense of space and interplay as the group’s more recent recorded work, an eerie lack of stuff that prompts the listener to turn up the volume as loud as possible for fear of losing the one thread that would allow the whole thing to make sense. In keeping with the Excepter aesthetic, the impulse turns out to be a mistaken one here. Tracks like “I Just Wanna Love Yeah” show the band in the light they cast on themselves, coming across like a collection of nervous tics and pathological tells.

As computers mediate an increasing amount of our time – both 'free' time and scheduled 'work' time – Excepter parses a latent strain of electronic alienation. If the Internet confronts us with too much – so much, in fact, that we find ourselves alternating between the maximal and the minimal, indulging our asceticism or strategically denying enjoyment to secure greater enjoyment – Excepter's often enervating music executes a brilliant, unexpected synthesis. When Ryan says Excepter play electronic instruments because they're harder to see, he's not messing around: Streams finds the band actively (dis)engaging with its audiences (the actual live one, the Internet audience, and finally the Streams listenership). Communication, in Excepter’s universe, is a deliberate misunderstanding, and they do everything they can to make you feel uncomfortable about it.

By Brandon Bussolini

Other Reviews of Excepter

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Self Destruction


Debt Dept.


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