It could be verse

Subtle outdo their story on ExitingARM
By MICHAEL BRODEUR  |  November 17, 2008

BARD KNOCKS: MCs who prop Marilyn Hacker are as common as poetry buffs who’ve battled Eminem at ScribbleJam — Dose has done both.

"I don't need a description of a hallway. I don't need pages of DeLillo describing baseball," says Doseone (a/k/a Adam Drucker) on the phone from downtown Portland, Oregon. We've just found that we share a mutual distaste for novels. Not certain novels — just novels. "Maybe we're TV children," he says, "but growing up, you're handed the worst books in the universe. I could hardly stand Catcher in the Rye."

As we chat, Doseone is headed to Powell's, Portland's esteemed mega-bookstore. He's hunting a copy of Galway Kinnell's TheBook of Nightmares, again. He's already given five copies of it away: one to Markus Acher of the Notwist, one to Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio, a couple to "two women I should never have fucked with," and one to Brandon Best, co-founder and active member (along with Dose) of Anticon, Oakland's renowned (and reviled) fringe hip-hop label and collective.

That Doseone is more of a poetry guy makes sense — sort of. You encounter MCs who prop Marilyn Hacker about as often as you meet poetry buffs who've battled Eminem at ScribbleJam (like Dose did in '97 — they both lost). These sorts of crossed intellectual streams are what characterize the mixed-media mangle that is Anticon's output; especially the large chunk of it spoken for by Dose — who has recorded solo, as Themselves (with Jel), as 13 & God (with Jel and members of the Notwist), as cLOUDEAD (with Why? and Odd Nosdam), and as Deep Puddle Dynamics (with Alias, Sole, and Slug), among others.

Most recently (and notably), Dose has been focusing on Subtle — a six-man post-everything combo born from an orbiting crew of Anticon cratediggers and associates of Dax Pierson, former clerk extraordinaire at Berkeley's famed Amoeba Records. The Subtle oeuvre (though exclusively released by London's Lex Records) embodies all that Doseone has delved into with Anticon over the years: frenetically shape-shifting and aggressively adventurous prog-pop with visible hip-hop roots, presided over by Dose's surrealist auctioneering; supplements of drawings and paintings (see the 70-page OughtAlmanac of AmassedFact Vol. 1 at their merch table); and, of course, pages of poetry (image-rich and syntactically knock-kneed — like a jumped-up John Berryman). (Much of which can be perused at ExitingARM, their third full-length, is by far the clearest expression of Subtle's manifold aesthetic — but it hasn't come easy.

"Subtle was a band built around Dax," Dose tells me. "So his absence was never expected." He's referring to 2005, when the Subtle van was sent off an Iowa highway by a patch of black ice, causing Pierson injuries that left him quadriplegic. The 2006 record For Hero: For Fool was written during (and in response to) his recovery. But ExitingARM finds Dax back at the desk, programming sequences and laying soft vocals here and there (among them: "When you crash/you know where your plane is"). "He's the strongest person we know," Dose says. "He's what our music is about — constantly overcoming. He makes us not want to write lazy songs."

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