Okay so it’s not entirely accurate to say the Rome based duo known as Exept are just returning with their first full-length album Black Soul, due out this Friday, June 26 on Delta9 Recordings. On top of the album teaser tracks “Icebreaker” and “Nightbreath” that D9 released in the last month, Exept have also featured on a number of collabs on the imprint as well as a brand new single on Blackout’s Adaptations Gen. II compilation EP with their fast and fizzy track, “Crystal Hammer.” So, they’ve been back after a nearly two year break since June 2022, but Black Soul will be the first time in a while we’ve all been slapped with a hefty dose of Exept.
For those who don’t recall, Exept debuted as a duo on Noisia’s Invisible label in 2018, so they really hit the ground running and didn’t stop with subsequent releases, dropping bombs on Pseudoscience, Vision proper, Dispatch and Surveillance Records before COVID hit. The pandemic hit especially hard in Italy so it’s not surprising that the Exept boys may have had more pressing matters on their hands, but now they’re picking up where they left off with their unique brand of neuro and on an epic LP full of innovative twists and turns, no less.
Fans who’ve listened to “Icebreaker” and “Nightbreath” will already know that Black Soul is more than cookie-cutter neurofunk. “Icebreaker” is spliced with 174 techno but punters may not clock it because it’s blended in with hurricane synths, jazzy hi-hats and deep bass sine waves. “Nightbreath” starts off with a conventional D&B beat but after an ambient break it goes 140 in the weirdest way before plonking back into 174 seemingly out of nowhere and then toggling between minimal dubstep, more 174 straight beats and D&B. If you were wondering if Exept had lost their edge in the last two years, the answer is clearly a resounding “no”. If anything, they’re edgier than ever.
Black Soul has a rich narrative as an album on top of the dancefloor slappers contained in each track. The opening track is a lush, ambient, beatless track that sounds like the intro credits to a video game that then drops seamlessly into the title track. The closing track is also called “Black Soul” and is similarly beatless and classically inspired, intended to put a period on the end of the album’s sentence. In between, there’s loads of genre jumping, like the dub-tempoed “Discordia” and the proper halftime “Nero” as well as loads of glitchy, itchy drum & bass like “Not for You” with Disprove, “Missin Online” with Slwdwn and the first title track. If Exept established their style between 2018 and 2020, in this new era it appears they’re planning to take it in every possible direction, if Black Soul is anything to go by.
Our YEDM premiere and, fortuitously, the last teaser before Black Soul drops, is for the whiplash-inducing penultimate track on the album, “Don’t Trust Me.” With a celestial intro that quickly descends into multi-beat chaos, this track is a highlight amongst highlights on this album. Similar to “Nightbreath” in that it contains multiple beat structures, “Don’t Trust Me” is even more maniacal because it morphs from its fast techno into breakbeat and then glitch-neuro so seamlessly with the use of cyclonic snares and switchbacks that listeners will genuinely wonder how they got to the middle of the track from the beginning. A sonic epic journey contained in three minutes and 29 seconds, “Don’t Trust Me” is a full thesis answer to the question, “what happens when D&B producers decide to treat techno like D&B?”
Though they’re likely enjoying another little break after the hard graft of making Black Soul, it’s clear the Exept boys are ready to prove that their legacy isn’t solely those first two years after Noisia got a hold of them. There’s much more to come from the breakout Italian artists, and in the meantime we can all revel in – and figure how to mix out of – the tracks and musical journey that is Black Soul.