Excepter - Presidence

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2010-02-15

In his seminal book on post-punk, Rip it Up and Start Again, Simon Reynolds argues that industrial music, propagated originally by groups like Throbbing Gristle and Nurse with Wound, was a inversion of 60s psychedelia. In place of the latter's utopian free love dream, however, industrial dealt in fantasies of horror, abjection and lost humanity. How apt then, that just as we reach the full blooming of the Brooklyn scene's pastoral, dreamy synthedelia - with last year's Merriweather Post Pavilion from Animal Collective and this month's Odd Blood from Yeasayer - fellow Brooklynites Excepter should re-emerge to light up the dark on the other side of the doors of perception.

Presidence, the eighth long-player from this six-strong collective, is a double album of improvised live recordings. It begins with a six-part suite called 'Teleportation' which takes in every kind of ambient and industrial music imaginable, from concrète ('Teleportation: ASK') to abrasive electronic soundscapes ('Teleportation: KAL') to Krautrock kosmiche ('Teleportation: LIL'). An extended improvisation recorded live in the studio, it makes heavy use of distorted, often wailing voices and owes a lot to the back catalogue of Throbbing Gristle. As you would expect from a long piece of improvisation, it oscillates from good to bad, from the inspired to the rather hackneyed (such as the horror movie groans at the end of 'LIL'), with some moments of boredom-inducing white noise in between. However, it has to be said that the high points outweigh the low and as soon as one's attention begins to wander some new element bubbles to surface to lure to listener back.

Beyond this suite, the music is often more considered and constructed. 'Leng' is a bewitchingly tense seven-minute plus piece that revolves around a soupy dub bass rhythm layered with treated cello drones. Chimes and fluttering flute motifs give the affair the feel of genuine old time head music. Elsewhere, Excepter take Brian Eno's concept of 'discrete music' to a level of placid somnambulism even he might bulk at; witness the first half of the 28-minute 'OG', which remains little more than a clammy intestinal hum interspersed with muffled clangs, groans and radio chatter until about a quarter-of-an-hour (!) in when a loping, hissing beat resolves itself from the foamy atmosphere accompanied by some very pretty synth work. From here on it evolves into a genuinely inventive, honking, tweeting almost-funk track pitched somewhere between Cluster and The Art of Noise before descending into a morass of disembodied wailing.

There's an engaging unpredictability to much of the album, a sense that Excepter are simply issuing a document of their creative spurts, in the same way Throbbing Gristle did with The Second Annual Report. However, this album could definitely do with being shorter. At more than half-an-hour, and consisting of little more than a repetitive synth pattern, the title track should have been jettisoned along with 'The Open Well', a directionless dirge with an irritating whiny vocal which is apparently an excerpt of a 17-hour long performance, following close behind.

But this is a minor quibble when a body of work contains so much ingenious and challenging music. It's enormously heartening that, along with LA noise-smiths HEALTH and Sheffield's Part Wild Horses Mane on Both Sides, someone out there is still taking cues from those artists who trod so far off the beaten path. You may not have the patience to listen through the whole of Presidence, but its high points are definitely worth the effort.

Richard Morris

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