July 29, 2008

Subtle - ExitingARM (2008)

If you like TV on the Radio, then I’m guessing you’ll like Subtle. And if you don’t like TVOTR, well… wtf? Another topic, another post...

Subtle is an Oakland-based sextet of artists, musicians and producers who took time off from their myriads of side-projects that further the Anticon. collective movement (think bands like Why?, 13 & God, etc.) to put out the latest installment in their trilogy: ExitingARM. Along with their first two albums, A New White (2004) and For Hero: For Fool (2006), EA completes their musical triptych that details the life of their conceptual icon, Hour Hero Yes, a “middle-class hero who fights apathy and consumerism.” Umm, it’s okay if you’re confused because these guys are nothing but conceptual wizards. Lead singer Doseone (aka, Adam Drucker) even boasts that the word “I” was removed from all lyrics to ensure an album sans “the self.” Yeah, these guys don't play.

As far as Subtle goes, there’s nothing subtle about ‘em.
Throw in some ambient, shoegaze, minimalistic techno beats, keyboards, synth, heavy guitar riffs, drum-machining, experimental hip hop feels, vocals that vacillate between spoken word, rap, and hymn-like layered vocals and you'll get a hint of what they sound like. And I won't go into detail about lyrics because they are beyond my comprehension... but once you accept the fact that they are, they become cryptic in a non-annoying way (see: Pinback). Plus, they switch genres faster than Jay-Z switches 4 lanes (in a Ferrari or Jaguar, with the top down screaming out “money ain’t a thang,” no less). Call it avant-garde hip hop, electro-rock, post-indie, it really makes no difference. You won’t be able to find a suitable label to capture the stunning musical complexity this album will reveal, after several listens mind you.

You might call EA a grower because it’s not for the faint-hearted and/or people with musical attention-deficits. But that’s just it... this album was created for total musical immersion, not individual track enjoyment. There are some great hooks to these soundscapes, but you’ll have to dig a little deeper to find them. And when you do, they’ll hit you sometime after the umpteenth listen and by then you'll welcome them with a newfound appreciation.

The standouts -- “ExitingARM” (one of my favorite track 1 openers of this year), “The Crow,” “Unlikely Rock Shock,” “Gonebones” and “The No.” But please know this album is best listened to from start to finish, with minimal interruption.

The Final Verdict:
Concept albums aren’t for everyone, especially since often times they are abstract as fuck and hard to enjoy.
ExitingARM requires time, an open-mind, and a desire to discover something that will most likely mean different things to each listener. However, after a few listens you’ll see patience has its rewards... and man, are they hella worth it.


awmercy said...

I'm going to have to check these guys out once my eMusic subscription renews.

Mona said...

Yay, I thought you were laying in a ditch somewhere without access to music and/or an ipod! Glad you're back on the quickcrit track!

Yeah, let me know. I'd really like to share opinions on this album. It's really unique.

awmercy said...

Yeah, kind of. The last few weeks have been rough. We've been packing, moving, and wrapping things up at work. All of which as added up to less music time.

I promise to get to Subtle. It just might take a while. We'll be in the woods without Internet this week and my main computer is boxed up in a shipping crate with all the rest of our stuff somewhere on a truck in the middle of the country, so I'll be rocking whatever's on my iPod for awhile.

awmercy said...

Anyway, I thought you had some concert you were all amped on and were itching to review...

Mona said...

Oh my, forgot about the move. Wow, you two must be having a blast amidst all the madness. I like to listen to alot of Tom Petty while traveling, I really have no idea why. What did you guys rock out to the most?

Hahha, aww come on mercy.. I'm working on it. I know, it's overdue. I have 3 reviews in the works. I woulda posted sooner but I felt like I was posting too much and didn't wanna come off so e-slutty with the music reviews. Expect them in the next 2 days, complete with PICS! :)

Mona said...

PS- where the heck is everyone else? perhaps an "end-of-summer" short-list will summon them to their computers like a sweet siren song? OMG, I'm loopy right now. lol