For Hero: For Fool
I haven't heard a hip hop album this original since the last Subtle album. Formed in 2001 by Anticon's Jel (Jeffrey Logan) and Doseone (Adam Drucker) Subtle took their time getting started. After a few singles and 2 EP's, Summer and Autumn, they finally got around to their debut full length in 2004. A New White was a multi layered musical masterpiece that vaguely clung to the fringes of hip hop fusing programmed and live beats, with electronics, strings and Dose's expertly delivered vocals. Their stage show was equally magnificent with a white top hat and tails clad Dose springing around the band like a court jester possessed. While on tour in 2005 their bus skidded off the road paralyzing keyboardist Dax Pierson from the chest down. It seems a small miracle this album was ever made due to the seriousness of Pierson's injuries not to mention the fact that much of the harmonica and backing vocals come from Dax himself.
But thankfully it was made - as it's yet another forward thinking piece of Anticon splendor. Since the demise of cLOUDDEAD and Themselves, and with Deep Puddle Dynamics being less than productive Subtle has become the main vehicle for Doseone to flex his outstanding lyrical muscle and with Jel on beats, Marty Dowers on woodwind, Jordan Dalrymple on guitar, Alex Kort on cello and the afore mentioned Pierson, Subtle's sound is textured to say the least. The key to their success is their grasp of contrast, light and dark, blur and focus, chiaroscuro if you will. Their multi layering of samples, instruments and sometimes indecipherable spoken and sung vocals create a pea soup like fog of sound that is then punctuated by its opposite. Sharp beats and Doseone's acutely pronounced prose spring from this fog at a thrilling pace but never become formulaic, quite the opposite. Much of Subtle's music is confusing and can often make the listener feel as if he is involved in a private conversation of which he knows nothing about, the music never goes where you think it will and although the theme of human pointlessness and the general decay of society is graspable the delivery is often in the form of surreal word play that moves on quicker than you can keep up.
As a whole For Hero: For Fool adopts the same contrasting form that each song does. A Tale Of Apes I & II usher in the fog with the use of post rock mush, Boards Of Canada style nostalgia-synth and Kraftwerk electro pop while Middleclass Stomp swamps you with it's glorious power-cord pop. The three main points of sharp focus are the hip hop extravaganza of Midas Gutz, the unashamedly danceable The Mercury Gaze and the jaw dropping Return Of The Gaze. Here Jel lays down the most complex beat of clicks, scratches and stabs with Doseone's rapping coming in softly at a pace that defies comprehension, he never misses a beat, he doesn't even breathe. His nasal delivery seems to take on the same properties as the electronic, stop-start beat and an accompaniment of gentle acoustic guitar and brushed cymbals culminating in wailing guitar and crashing drums makes this the finest moment on the album. Vocal dexterity is Dose's forte and when put with Jel's masterful grasp of the textured beat the result is an aural delight.
Hip Hop was born from the deconstruction and reassembling of other genres and for that reason remains one of the most versatile music forms. It's creative perimeters are huge. There is nothing it can't borrow, steal or sample. This scope is expressed perfectly in the music of Subtle who seem to see no limits to how far they can stretch this genre. In the hazy, surreal fog of For Hero: For Fool boundaries and classifications are simply not visible.
27th Oct 2006 - Tumblr4.5
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