A New White

Remember back before Anticon fell off? Back when they swore they wouldn't? Back when that whole backpack shit really felt like a movement? Those were good days.
Fuck that. No they weren’t. Shit’s the same now as it was then: I’m still just broke, lonely, and loving a woman who doesn’t want me. About the only thing that’s changed is the boy genius behind this whole thing has gone expatriate on us.
Still, I refuse to give up on Anticon. Despite a series of lackluster and redundant releases, despite loosing big names to greener pastures, and despite having fallen short of every expectation, I still believe in these guys. We’re all older now, but the energy that drew us to this clique is still there. In fits of brilliance the individual members of the Anticon collective continue to do their nation proud with their fearless pursuit of their muses. This is American Art at its finest: bold, restless, and searching.
Still, not every step can be made without stumble. Odd Nosdam looses himself in his medium; his impulse to do all he can overrides any sense to do only what he should. Why? loses his art to himself, his navel-gazing giving way to emo embarrassment. And Doseone looses himself in his art.
By what standard should art be judged? By intent? By impact? Or by the intersection of the two? Somewhere between those measures, Dose holds his own as an idiosyncratically insular yet entirely essential artist.
Dose has skills. And Dose has vision. Yet that vision remains so defiantly his own that impact is often obscured by intent. He moves you, your head and hands, but he never has your heart.
That same tendency prevails over the new Subtle LP. This is a good record. It will engage you and you will enjoy it. Yet its passing will leave you with nothing. Except perhaps the urge to hit the play button again.
How does this happen? How can a record be simultaneously intriguing yet entirely inconsequential? Perhaps it is the natural progression of a group that first introduced itself with a dull drone of uninspired ambient dreck. Over the course of four dreary drudgefests dedicated to the cycle of seasons, Subtle proved itself to be the first Doseone effort that failed to distinguish itself as his own. What began as a means of liberating him from the constraints of his strongest medium, his voice and words, eventually stifled and doomed the project to an utter lack of any identity or purpose. Furthermore, it prevented Jel from dropping the kind of head-nodding thud-thwack that only he can conjure, which is a damnedly criminal act.
Their growing pains behind them, Subtle has now reemerged as the confident and natural extension of Doseone’s previous work with cLOUDDEAD and Themsleves. The willfully dense lyrical wordplay is back as is the scattershot delivery and the ass-shattering beats that hold the whole thing down.
Yet the effort still retains some characteristics of the group’s initial work. Each song moves in segments yet lacks any transition enough to give the impression of movement. The album as a whole is a series of great moments that fail to be unified into a directed effort.
Still, each moment is thoroughly satisfying. From the handclap/shout/stomp breakdown of “silence…” to the dub-metal and clarinet crescendo of “She,” no single instant will fail to captivate. Then, once the last whispering organ shrinks away from the last seconds of the last track, you’re right back where you started. No better and no worse, you’re only forty minutes full on entertainment and fifteen dollars poorer. Not that it wasn’t worth it. It was. You just can’t say why.
Ultimately that failure to establish a more meaningful connection with the listener falls on Dose himself. It’s his insistence on the obscure and intangible that renders truly emotional engagement a regrettable impossibility.
But that which damns him also defines him. It is this same proclivity for wrapping his own words so tightly around his soul that drives Dose to create such compelling art; the same ambiguity that keeps us at a distance also keeps us coming back.
So buy this record. Or even better, go see Dose and the boys live. Cause this backpack shit ain’t fully faded out yet. And there’s still a compass and a calculator up in here for anyone who dares test otherwise. Believe it.

Download "red, white, & blonde"

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