Subtle’s For Hero: For Fool defies any kind of categorization, straddling the line between rap, hip hop and experimental rock (think Radiohead and the Gorillaz being remixed together by the Caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland). Headed by rapper/musician/poet Adam Drucker (known as “Doseone”), Subtle consists of a group of artists (and some notable guest artists) dedicated to exploring new musical frontiers on their first major-label release.
Using scratches, wicked beats, feedback, guitars, cellos, horns, bombastic drumming, epic synth washes and the odd sentimental piano solo, Subtle create a rich wall of sound, one moment tapestry, the next cacophony, spiraling into endless variations and carefully timed glitches. Phantasmagorial, obtuse, yet catchy, each track is distinct, but covers so much ground that it is impossible to tell where one track ends and another begins. “Midas Gutz,” the most coherent song, and featuring the best flow, details a game show in which tough guys slit open their stomachs and play poker with their warm intestines. Yeah, it’s like that.
Doseone’s breathy, high-pitched mile-a-minute rapping amazes in its dexterity. But, upon several listenings, the really amazing thing is Doseone’s ability to craft the English language, cutting and splicing and parceling words and syllables into new melodic forms. He turns poetic phrases that are as vivid as they novel: “Hi up above you / in a Hollywood-set-style heaven / hang awake Darwin’s bones / wheeled on a hook to the edge of a cumulus cloud / peering down just, eating you up / and loving your nature to death.”
The album’s liner notes (and this is why people actually buy CDs) are one giant freeform poem, melting the lyrics of all 11 tracks into a sprawling picaresque of a rap, illustrated with bizarre, threatening pen and ink renditions of silverware armies, bloody streets, evil deer and corpses on stilts. Reading the lyrics along with the song through the entire album in one sitting is an epic psychedelic experience, like watching “The Wall” or reading Ginsberg’s Howl, challenging heart and hearing.
Subtle’s For Hero: For Fool is a shining star in what has been a great year of new releases. Although not for many, For Hero: For Fool is a must-have for anyone looking to have their mind blown wide open in a way lower caliber releases can only aspire to.