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Sounding out technology.
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Two Latter Day Trip-Hop MP3s

The worlds of hip-hop and ambient overlap more often than they collide, which is why Subtle is so welcome. An instrumental quintet plus vocalist, Subtle might find its albums and singles filed under trip-hop, or downtempo, or illbient for that matter, as two free MP3s on the website of its label, Lex, display. “Eneby Kurs,” off the forthcoming A New White, features a distracted keyboard flutter, a rich bridge of nonsense syllables and layered effects, and a bass line so sleepy it seems like at any moment it may nod off entirely (warning: by the end the cut has built to a noisy wall of sound, though the whole thing is so utterly unassuming you’ll wonder when, exactly, someone raised the volume). And “F.K.O.,” a recent single reminiscent of De La Soul, is a feat of pop minimalism just glistening beneath rapper Doseone’s nasal, artfully muffled wordstream. If you dig the song, pick up the release for the extra tracks: an instrumental edit, plus remixes by B. Fleischmann and Console. Both cuts represent a kind of “third way” for hip-hop, neither the fiscally obsessed narcissism of what rules the pop charts with commanding if high-priced beats, nor the often all too earnest enlightenment of so-called “conscious” (as in “socially conscious”) rap, which generally downplays the music in favor of the lyrics. Download Subtle’s “Eneby Kurs” here and “F.K.O.” here, and visit lexrecords.com for more info (among the assorted tidbits, Subtle was tapped to remix a track from the forthcoming Beck album). Oh, one more warning: the tracks are free, yeah, but they’re compressed at the substandard rate of 56 kbps.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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