Subtle began in 2001 when Dax Pierson, an employee at the Amoeba Music record store in Berkeley, CA., met Adam Drucker at the record store. They decided to try and make some music together. The first time they got together Pierson also invited Alexander Kort to the session, whom Pierson had collaborated on performing, composing and improvising a score for some classic silent films (Marty Dowers was also a part of these collaborations). Later that year, Pierson was invited to an open mic show and invited other musicians to form a one-time group for a predominately improvised twenty minute performance. Pierson invited Marty Dowers (woodwind/synth), Jordan Dalrymple (drums/guitar) — a fellow Amoeba Music employee — and Alexander Kort (cello), all of whom Pierson had previously played with. Everyone enjoyed playing together so much that they decided to continue on as a group and added mpc/drum machinist Jeff ‘Jel’ Logan and emcee/vocalist Adam ‘Doseone’ Drucker, who had both created music as the duo Themselves.
Over the course of 2002 and 2003 Subtle released their four ‘season’ EPs: Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring, which consisted mostly of homemade recordings and were released on Doseone’s own label, A Purple 100. Winter was comprised solely of one 37-minute track which was entirely improvised at midnight on winter solstice. The EPs were eventually discontinued and replaced by the compilation album Earthsick in 2004, which was made up of the tracks thought by the band to be the best of the ‘seasons’ EPs and added four previously unreleased, untitled, improvised tracks.
In 2003 the band signed to Lex Records and, in 2004, released their first proper full-length, A New White. This album spawned the single “F.K.O.”, which stands for “Fuck Kelly Osbourne”. Introduced on the record, and a recurring character in much of Subtle’s work, is ‘Hour Hero Yes’, an aspiring middle-class poet and rapper. He is mentioned throughout the two Subtle LPs and both remix compilations, as well as in the 13 & God (a collaboration between Doseone, Jel, Pierson and The Notwist) song “Ghostwork”. Album and video artwork, as well as art on Subtle’s official website, suggest ‘Hour Hero Yes’ to be a bald man with a black and white striped face — an image which is embodied by a bust that serves as a centerpiece prop during live Subtle shows. Their live shows are particularly noted for their theatricality, incorporating hand-painted backdrops, set props, “costumes”, and theatrical monologues that go alongside the musical performances.
While on tour to promote A New White in 2005, the band’s van went off the road after hitting a patch of black ice on a highway in Iowa. The driver, live sound engineer Patrick Scott and five members of the band sustained minor injuries, while Dax Pierson’s upper spine was severely damaged, leaving him a quadriplegic. Dax has continued however to contribute to the band, but as of now, does not tour.
In 2006 the band released the CD/DVD Wishingbone, a sister album to A New White containing remixes of tracks from A New White, some remixed by Subtle, as well as new material. Three music videos were released on the DVD included with the album, all of which were produced by animation company SSSR. SSSR would also later create the video for the 2006 single “The Mercury Craze”.
Subtle signed a distribution deal with Astralwerks/EMI as of July 2006. For Hero: For Fool was released in October 2006 on Lex and Astralwerks/EMI. Dax Pierson, rendered quadriplegic by their tour accident in 2005, contributed beatboxing, vocals and harmonica to the album and his contribution is prominently displayed on the final track, “The Ends”. The album was received very well by critics, with Cokemachineglow.com declaring it their 2006 “Album of the Year”. The single “The Mercury Craze” was released as a 7” Vinyl and CD single and is used as an opening for the German TV show Spam Deluxe.
In November 2006, while on tour in Europe, their tour van was robbed in Barcelona, Spain. Bags containing $15,000 worth of gear and personal belongings were stolen, including a laptop containing demos, draft lyrics and unreleased work. To try and recover some of the funds, Doseone drew personalized portraits of fans from photos they would send in.
Yell&Ice, a collection of remakes and remixes, was released October 2007, It featured collaborations with Why?, Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade, Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio, Markus Acher of The Notwist, and Chris Adams of Hood. Just as Wishingbone revisited Subtle’s first LP A New White, Yell&Ice explores and reinterprets their preceding full-length, For Hero: For Fool. Unlike a typical collection of remixes, Yell&Ice utterly reapproaches the lyrics and music of For Hero: For Fool. In order to better suit the palette and prowess of each respective collaborator, lyrics were rewritten, sounds resampled, and time signatures unlocked. These songbones were then sent to various collaborators who then rewrote, sang, and sequenced to the tune of their talents.
Both Wishingbone and Yell&Ice were fashioned to further explore Subtle’s conceptual protagonist, ‘Hour Hero Yes’, while creating a medium for the band’s love of collaborative music making. Doseone has likened the albums to early rap maxi-singles which would contain tracks with the same backing music but different vocals.
On May 13th, 2008 The band released ExitingARM, the third album “in the ever-widening epic of Hour Hero Yes” which was accompanied by its own website with further poems on Yes’ journey. The album was an attempt to create a more accessible sound.
It is intended that Subtle’s first three studio albums (A New White, For Hero: For Fool and ExitingARM) serve as a trilogy about the rise and fall of the character ‘Hour Hero Yes’, and the character may indeed live on throughout the course of all their studio output, with the lyrics derived from his perspective.
During the ExitingARM tour, the OughtAlmanac of AmassedFact Vol. 1, a 70 page book that acts as a guide for the world in which ‘Hour Hero YES’ resides, was available for purchase at Subtle’s merchandise booth. Limited to 100 pieces, the Almanac featured pages all hand painted by Doseone and accompanied by a 65 track mp3 CD of Doseone reading the Almanac in its entirety. All copies of the Almanac have the first and last pages torn out except for a small bit, where it is numbered and signed. The reading on the CD featured background noise from the improvisational sessions that later became ExitingARM as well as the crackle of a blank record. Exitingarm.com served as an online version of the book/CD.
WASHERE, the first live Subtle album contains a collection of ‘hand-picked’ live songs, alternate versions, and “original session” improvisations from their past five years of touring. WASHERE includes tracks from the rehearsals for the A New White tour. The tracks recorded “live at the mansion” are some of the only live performances that were recorded before the tour accident that left Dax Pierson quadriplegic.
Similar to what Wishingbone was to A New White and Yell&Ice to For Hero: For Fool, SmallFear Souvenir will be a remix/ re-interpretation album of ExitingARM. Artists confirmed to be working on it are Alias (“Sick Soft Perfection), Thee More Shallows (“Day Dangerous), Black Moth Super Rainbow (“Gonebones), Genghis Tron (“Take To Take) and Trans Am (“The No).
Videos, audio and news can be found on Subtle’s official website: http://www.subtle6.com/
Aside from the above, there was also an artist called ‘subtle’ in the music scene of the old mp3.com days. This was a solo artist writing electronic music.
Edited by Dr_MoonOrGun on 21 Jan 2011, 13:11
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