Subtle
Fri Feb 18
Doug Fir Lounge
830 E Burnside

Containing former members of Clouddead and Themselves--Anticon standard bearers and golden idols of collegiate hiphop--Subtle are the newest, and perhaps greatest, amassment of this already proven collective. And like the most exciting developments from the constituent's former work, Subtle feels at once more grand in experimental scope and more tightly woven with pop gold.

Their recent debut, A New White (on Warp faction Lex Records) brims with the reaching and dynamic versatility of the greatest rock and pop records; it is sonically, thematically, and viscerally impressive. The sextet short-circuits genres and conjures contrasting textures with orchestral aplomb. Balletic toybox melodies slide easily along aboard post-Closer clanking Factory beats. Willowy Nick Drake-ish guitar figures give way to explosions of aural grain and dust.

Above it all is the indelible brand of Adam "Doseone" Drucker's erudite flow. Although the standard characterization of Dose's style--a rapid-fire poetry throttle of nasal delivery--is pretty undeniable, it is also an oversimplification. Dose's flow feels as mentally and stylistically free as the dearly departed Ol' Dirty Bastard's--he seems ready to burst into song or willfully disrupt his comfort zone at any time. Unlike Ol' Dirty, however, in Dose these psychically explosive elements feel tightly coiled and harnessed with compositional clarity. His deeply self-journalistic verse rolls in the same kind of factual and emotional minutiae as a lot of indie hiphop, but finds its own thematic opera box via Dose's aggressively literate and weird torqueing of "the facts."

Onstage Subtle are anything but. They transmogrify into a well-tuned theatrical engine--Hamlet poses are struck, faux-conducting ensues, and Dose ascends the mount of truly self-possessed frontmandom. Their bargain orchestra garb could be taken as Residents-esque shtick, but it also frames the band appropriately as a collective-minded musical army, a machine of cultural delivery--a simultaneously goofy and gravely serious sermon on the mount.