Sunday, December 28, 2008

Crap I Liked in 2008: Subtle - Exiting Arm

Exiting Arm is part three in a concept running over three records, released two years apart from one another, each following referee-faced protagonist (H)our Hero Yes. Subtle are sort of a category unto themselves, a hip hop band fronted by perhaps the most literate emcee of all, Adam Drucker/Doseone, whose artistic ability and stage persona – involving sharp jokes, speedy rhymes, and a gaze that could kill – really make the band what it is. That said, though, what other hip hop group can boast both a drum machine and live drum kit, as well as an electric cello? The music's the most important part of the music, you know.

The second round of these three parts, 2006's For Hero: For Fool had been the boldest, musically, and most critical, lyrically. Drucker had, during an April 2006 interview with A.V. Club, labeled Our Hero Yes a “beat poet born in rap,” meant to represent “all fairness,” and likened his own work to a graphic novel, which is rather fitting, given how Subtle's records are made complete by Drucker's artwork. In “The Mercury Craze,” the first single from For Hero: For Fool, we were reintroduced to Our Hero Yes, “recently diagnosed as being last haver of a most unusual sort of blood,” but we suddenly became the subject of Drucker's hypothetical prodding, asked what we would do to have our blood “flushed completely and replaced with that of a nice bright white college boy.” Suddenly, an earlier reference to Vice Magazine “serving up a hard bucket of most happening blood” took on a more logical appearance.

In May 2008 there arrived Exiting Arm, the liner notes of which reference 2004's A New White, and which is supplemented by a website
where we're provided new artwork and poetry, proving if anything that, tangentially, (1) this concept has been ridiculously thought out, and (2) the high and nasal voice with which Drucker speaks on stage is in fact another mere part of the Doseone character. But the record is an interesting point of comparison with the record that recently preceded it, the tone and transition between “Day Dangerous” and “The No” not unlike that between “Middleclass Stomp” and “Middleclass Kill” in 2006.

There's not as much clearly spelled out social criticism this time around, though there is “Unlikely Rock Shock,” where Drucker raps, “The fate of your life may go cold...May be determined by how good you look in white” in a “6ft tall man's world.” “The No,” as much a dark rock song as “Middleclass Kill,” finds Drucker referring to public school as a “cell” that provides the artificial light necessary to give birth to a skeptic. Okay. But there's also a lot of creativity in the music, still heavily influenced by early hip hop but thick with percussion, like that of Jel's drum machine on “Sick Soft Perception,” and endlessly layered vocal tracks, like those on “Hollow Hollered.”

Sadly, the group's now on indefinite hiatus. However, Doseone is a collaborating maniac and for the time being is set to take part in some top secret project with Mike Patton and Tunde Adebimpe (god damn!).

Subtle - Day Dangerous
Purchase Exiting Arm


Maddie said...

Great post, I like your writing style. Just checked out some of Subtle's stuff and I agree, they're definitely different, great stuff though.

China said...

How nice, thanks. If you aren't too familiar with them I definitely recommend all their records, and in addition, Jel, as well as collaborations like 13 & God, Clouddead, Themselves. A bunch of the junk on the Anticon and Lex labels are great.