By Trevor Hill

Had it with hooks and melodies? Have 30-hour robo-trips and peyote-toting desert excursions lost their mystery? Put the dissociatives back on the shelf, Excepter's full-length debut is all you need - it's out there. The revolving-door quartet with No-Neck Blues Band ties have cemented their place as the torch-bearers of guitarless avant-garde. More accessible than previous releases, which tapped into tropicália, krautrock, and minimalist house through a kaleidoscopic industrial echo box, Alternation is without a congruent discernable influence, perhaps due to its recording at four sites over three years.

The first audible lyrics are "If you can't find it here, man, it can't be found." Fitting, considering the album is loaded with face-melters and panty-droppers so dense it takes more than a few casual listens to grasp. From the start, listeners know what they're getting into and must decide if they are willing to forsake logic and structure in favor of self-realization.

Live cut "If I Were You" brings us the closest we've come to front man John Fell Ryan's voice on record as he clearly laments forgetting the names of their machines. Electronic drums barely start to fill the beat before quickly deflating then slowly blowing back up. The robots get their word in, distorting the vox incomprehensibly, then crawling away. The droning frenzy of "Whirl Wind"'s oscillating synths creates walls of sound blown away by their tempest.

The record owes nearly as much to equipment as JFR's Brooklyn apartment, where he holes up for days banging on the water pipes, which, paired with some high pitch noodling, makes its own track. Cleverly titled "Apt. Living" features sexy, heavy female breathing, interrupted by Fell Ryan answering the phone.

This album works hardest in the wee hours of the night, with a little buzzing in your head to accompany the analog din. Certain to clear the room, Alternation provides itself the ideal environment. Excepter step out of the mud to introduce themselves, then retire back into the murk, leaving you with little more than the knowledge of your own existence, and this is what you like to hear.

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[Published on: 9/18/06]

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