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Rhythm & Views

Subtle

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The dense and dark avant-garde hip-hop sound collages of the ensemble Subtle are constantly changing, fluid compositions that evolve with each performance and remix, which makes the re-envisioning of songs on this new limited-edition set refreshingly apt.

A companion piece to the Oakland, Calif.-based collective's stunning 2004 debut album, A New White, this recording features eight music tracks in 40 minutes, as well as a DVD boasting three Subtle music videos by the British animation group SSSR. The music consists of radical reworkings of tunes from the first CD.

The raps of vocalist Adam "Doseone" Drucker hit like a less-fuzzy version of the sneer patented by Cypress Hill's B-Real, but listeners also will encounter spacey group vocals channeled through electronic effects. Subtle prove they fear no music, spanning the skittery, skeletal drum 'n' bass of "I L.A. II" and the jarring chamber music arrangement of "I & #8217," a Subtle remix of a tune by Ms. John Soda. And Beck's "Farewell Ride" is almost unrecognizable, but this remix's alluring blurts of horns and stabs of strings make for trippy escapist entertainment.

A remix of "FKO" (which stands for Fuck Kelly Osbourne) is perhaps the most interesting track--it begins as a stately Brian Eno-eque soundscape but grows into an increasingly enervating exploration of shifting rhythms. Don't be surprised if you hear an accordion, since the members of Subtle also mix and fold woodwinds, guitar, cello and harmonica into their sonic batter.

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