Over the course of three albums (plus a couple of odds-and-ends releases) Subtle have made music filled with conflict, representative of the confusing world we live in. The synthetic fuses with the organic; drum machines pound out tribal beats and vocals are filtered to sound disturbed and otherworldly, while samples are densely layered to create music that takes many listens to grasp. The new album Exiting Arm strips away the in-your-face delivery of predecessor For Hero: For Fool somewhat, but it’s still an intense, overwhelming listen.
Doseone’s lyrics and delivery are at once overpowering and elusive with his multiple personalities all talking at once, phrases coming out of the mire before disappearing back into their disorientating surroundings. He’s as much an instrument as the drum machines and guitars. He’s also the preacher on the street corner who in an initial knee jerk you think is crazy but maybe, you reflect, his apocalyptic cries hold truth.
And yet for all its insanity, Exiting ARM has pop sensibilities at its twisted core. ‘Unlikely Rock Shock’ is dance music for the end times with its head-nod beat, warbling synths and a refrain that I guarantee you’ll struggle to remove from your brain for days, much like the guitar line from the title track. You’ll occasionally hear a brief flash of something that sounds traditionally melodic – the acoustic guitar of ‘Hollow Hollered’, a brief flourish of horns on the oddly affecting ‘The Crow’ – but it’s relative and fleeting.
Although I’ve listened to the album a number of times, I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’m not even sure it’s a good idea to try and decode what’s going on in this contradictory collage too much, particularly when it comes to deciphering Doseone’s bizarre lyrics. I find myself coming back to them because they’re so different to anything else in my record collection: a genuinely unique fusion of disparate influences.
Exiting Arm is out now on Lex.
VIDEO: F.K.O. (from A New White)
From a trilogy of animations by SSSR, available on the rarities collection Wishingbone.