For the past several months there've been rumors of a new Excepter record called Familiar on the long-standing label, Blast First Petite-- but there haven't been any major announcements or a listed release date. And while there still doesn't appear to be anything firm, the New York band did just drop a video for "Sunburned Kids," a track from Familar, whose YouTube description lists the record as being out on "(Blast First Petite 2014)"-- so we'll see. For now, though, "Sunburned Kids" should curb your appetite. A long, faded, shimmering jam, aptly-titled and perfect for the season, "Sunburned Kids" lays into that tweaked brand of Excepter-ian groove, embellishing itself with synth blurts and what sounds like pan flute. The appropriately acid-drenched video by Laid Eyes features manipulated images of the band and then effected shots of Francesca McLoughlin dancing to a song that's indeed ultimately quite danceable.
Familiar is hopefully out soon on Blast First Petite.
“Brooklyn: there are streams in its name, and flow is certainly part of it.” - John Fell Ryan
Before I knew about Excepter-- or much other music outside the sphere of things mentioned in School of Rock-- I had already satisfyingly mapped out, in my head, a timeline of New York bands that seemed representative of the city, at least according to how it was viewed by a tween-age kid from Chicago. It all started with The Velvet Underground, who I didn’t necessarily love but knew were objectively “cool” and “New York-y.” Then, The Ramones. Talking Heads, Sonic Youth, and then ‘90s Sonic Youth. The Strokes took this timeline into the twenty-first century, and it all ended, firmly, with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. “Cool,” for me, didn’t exist outside downtown Manhattan, and by 2004 or so, it seemed to me like cool bands were on their way out of New York altogether. But then, yeah, I found Excepter.
I’ll cop to learning about the group from Dominique Leone’s Pitchfork review of KA, which gave the record a Best New Music tag and which was published shortly after I discovered that site while searching for information about this incredible new band my sister had shown me called Animal Collective. Leone used a lot of big words and concepts that flew over my head, but what I took from the review was that there was some sort of subculture now that sounded a little bit like how I pictured downtown New York in the ‘70s to be: all destitute and violent and drug-fueled, but maybe even weirder. The “songs” on KA were like depraved, self-contained landscapes, equal parts harrowing and inviting. Each one was just an expansive mess of sound; there was no structure, and if there was a beat, it was distorted and inconsistent. The vocals were gargled and mumbled and moaned rather than sung. Every new sound that would enter the landscape was foreign and mysterious to me, and I was forced to imagine where each of them might have came from, which gave the listening experience visual and tactile components. As far as I knew, there’d never been music like this. It wasn’t long before I discovered Excepter’s predecessors and contemporaries, but for a time, their music-- and theirs alone-- seemed to come from some perpendicular universe, light-years away from my quiet north Chicago neighborhood. So where was all this happening? And how?
As if a new EP and promise of a new LP weren't enough, Excepter just posted a recording of their super-spooky Halloween set at Bowery Ballroom. Over forty-eight minutes, the resurgent New York group plays plenty of musical tricks, building walls of sinister electronic sludge punctured by beats and extraterrestrial vocals, all of which meander abstractly, the fleeting ideas elusive, yes, but treats nonetheless. It starts fairly slow and subdued, but in its second half the set gets a little noisier, a little more intense-- paralleling the progression of a creepy slasher movie, perhaps? All (terrible) festive jokes aside, there's always room for more Excepter-- and this happens to be a very good set by a very good group.
Excepter mastermind John Fell Ryan occasionally performs as SETH, an alias seemingly used just for a solo act or with his wife/bandmate Lala Harrison Ryan. It shares a distinct attitude with his primary project but naturally stripped down. However, an economizing of Excepter's densely evolving ceremonial rites still results in a pretty layered ruckus; there's the trudging drums, heavily reverbed vocal abstractions, and synth writhes. Now we have a recording of his show at Secret Project Robot for which he lists more than a few instruments as well. Starting with harmonica riffing over a scraping drum beat and ending somewhere totally different, it's a weird venture with characteristic mystery.