Ever since the first Themselves record came barreling onto my radar like a Soviet torpedo back in â€™99, I have been in awe of Doseone and Jelâ€™s creative look at what hip hop music is, and what it can be.
With the new record by the group Subtle, titled ExitingARM, they’ve finally put me on the floor. Subtle has always tiptoed the melodic, free association edge of hip hop and experimental music as a whole since their debut in 2002 with the Seasons EP’s (later to be put together as Earthsick).This time, they’ve made somethingfinally accessible to the rest of the musical world. The Subtle Six have created their â€œpopâ€ record (much like cLOUDDEADâ€™s â€œpop albumâ€ ten) – and let me say, that it works VERY well.
The record begins with the title track, with melodies created by Doseone and Dax Pierson. They instantly grab you and bring you on their continued journey. For those uninitiated, the Subtle records are a story of the travels of a character named Hour Hero Yes. Hour Hero is an everyman of sorts, both an aspiring poet and emcee. This album, according to the always eccentric Doseone, is the final chapter of Hour Hero’s journey. Here, he’s battling the Ungodz and Dr. Moonorgun. The group is just like their name, subtle, so to truly understand the venture of Hour Hero, this record and its predecessors must be revisited again and again to get an idea of the larger story.
The next blatantly noticeable puzzle piece of ExitingARM is Jelâ€™s bone-crushing MPC reaching out of your speakers and slamming your head down (on beat, of course) into whatever happens to be the nearest surface. The rest of the Six join in to create a magical world of beautifully crafted melody. The pace slows a bit on Day Dangerous to let the experience really sink in and the record starts to show just how melodic and perfectly accessible Subtle has become.
After building the pace back a bit on ‘The No’, Jelâ€™s trademark “hand of slam” returns on ‘Sick Soft Perfection’ and along for the ride is a synth line that not even Devo themselves could have dreamed of. The record continues to traverse through an incredible melodic path throughout the middle tracks. The meat and potatoes of this experience are highlighted with slightly more subdued subwoofer-rattling grooves from Jel, Alexander Kortâ€™s entrancing cello as well as doseone and Daxâ€™s melodic, cryptic harmonies.
The album ends with a pair of mellower tracks, ‘Wanted Found’ and ‘Providence’. On both of these tracks Subtleâ€™s past returns. They have a great feeling of some of the highest points of their more abrasive (but equally amazing) debut, A New White. Both tracks give me the chills like my first listens of ‘Red, White and Blonde’, ‘F.K.O. (Fuck Kelly Osbourne)’ and ‘She’. The structures of these two new tracks have a dark, cold feel that will give even the baddest, burliest dude you know the shivers.
In addition to the album, Doseone has created a companion web site to this album to aide in the listenerâ€™s journey with Hour Hero. The site at first glance looks like the clusterfuck of a bedroom that M.C. Escher and Ivan Albrightâ€™s mythical love child must have. As you venture through this site, you find that the â€œfinger of opportunityâ€ begins to show up and by clicking on a character or place of interest, doseoneâ€™s nasal voice will begin reading a poem aiding oneâ€™s understanding of Yesâ€™s venture against the Ungodz and Dr.Moonorgun. I believe this is by far one of the strongest companions to a record in a long time. Especially with the heavy metaphor and strange associations of Doseone’s lyrics, the site can truly help a listener appreciate this compelling tale just as much as the music can.
Subtle – Exiting Arm (mp3)