People don’t bother with music that’s truly inscrutable — there’s no point. And yet, it always feels like you’re about to figure Excepter out, but there’s nothing there (or even a “there”) to discern. It’s quicksand. But right when you give up and write off these Brooklyn noisemakers as the sound of unattended machines, they do something to make you think of them as people, not just reflex arcs. Guitars or keyboards droning, beats too slack and nagging to dance to, vocals that are always on the edge of narrative… that their music is inescapably human while remaining almost totally unengaged with the basic requirements for functioning human beings gives you pause. This is why people say they make music for zombies, or cavemen, or robots: The connection between those groups is that they’re not us, and few bands sound as powerfully uninterested in the fact of your listening as Excepter does.
Debt Dept. is their most conventional work, down to its nine-song, 43-minute organization. Old hands might be disappointed when “Shots Ring” and “Kill People” have a tentative connection to recognizably human concerns, albeit a winking, glancing one. But John Fell Ryan’s brief fixation on murder plays as neither social commentary nor as a joke — him croaking “Did you know the cost of life is one dollar?” means nothing less or more than the way he keeps saying “Medici” in the middle of “Greenhouse/Stretch.” The result is exactly as good as every other Excepter record. But that sort of thinking is like watching Inland Empire and waiting for the plot to kick in; what Excepter and Lynch are going for is some kind of pure viscerality, and for better or worse they’ve both come close to realizing it. Hot Chip may have threatened to break your legs, but Excepter do something far spookier: Listen to them long enough and they’ll shut down your brain until all you’re left with are autonomic responses. That sort of thing doesn’t appeal to many, but Excepter hit that sweet spot like no one else.
Excepter play Glasslands March 29, myspace.com/theglasslands.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 25, 2008