Oakland-based sextet Subtle straddles genre boundaries, fusing elements of hip-hop, Beat poetry, electronica, and prog-rock into a stew of noise that sounds a bit like TV On The Radio kaleidoscopically filtered through mid-'70s Brian Eno. All three Subtle albums—2004's A New White, 2006's For Hero: For Fool, and now ExitingARM—have been concept records chronicling the life and travels of an everyman character named Hour Hero Yes. The story is layered with so many surreal images and outlandish characters—one typical lyric is "there is a sick soft god, human perfection, in someone's hard-to-find bird-head collection"—that listeners may want to approach it as a kind of abstract, obscure monologue in the vein of Allen Ginsberg's Howl. (Doseone is supplementing the album with a 20,000-word online booklet with material that didn't fit on ExitingARM.)
Musically, ExitingARM is just as layered, blenderizing beats, sampled electronic noise, and Doseone's easygoing, flowing words into a package that's sometimes electrifying and sometimes confounding. No one song leaps out as the successor to the fractured catchiness of earlier earworms like "F.K.O." and "The Mercury Craze"; instead, ExitingARM is best experienced as a single 46-minute immersive experience.