Review: Subtle: ExitingARM

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.

Originally published on May 19, 2008. Read the complete article.

Interview: Freema Agyeman of “Doctor Who”

Freema AgyemanLondon-born actress Freema Agyeman was making steady inroads into British television when she got her big break with a relatively minor role in the current revival of Doctor Who, playing a character who is brainwashed and later killed by the evil android Cybermen. Her performance impressed the show’s producers enough that they brought her back the next year as the new primary co-star to David Tennant’s Doctor—this time playing her deceased character’s cousin, the plucky doctor-in-training Martha Jones. Though Martha was replaced this year by a new companion played by Catherine Tate, she’s returning for a short story arc and the series finale, as well as a three-episode stint on the spin-off Torchwood, with the potential for a more permanent return. Agyeman recently spoke with The A.V. Club about creating her character, avoiding spoilers, and the dangers of typecasting.

Originally published on May 15, 2008. Read the complete article.

Review: Dosh, Wolves And Wishes

Even in this age, songwriters relying too heavily on samplers and electronic effects run the risk of creating cold, soulless, boring music that lacks a human touch. That emphatically isn’t a problem for Minneapolis musician Martin Dosh, whose deft touch at manipulating sound seems to grow more organic and appealing with each record, including his fourth solo disc, Wolves And Wishes. Dosh is probably known best as a collaborator of Andrew Bird, whose similar approach to loop-based music led to Dosh joining Bird’s live show and co-writing the 2007 disc Armchair Apocrypha. On Wolves, Dosh gathers a crowd of accomplished improvisers, including Bird, Bonnie “Prince” Billy (who adds an appropriately haunting wail to “Bury The Ghost”), and a bevy of Twin Cities musicians, including Bad Plus drummer David King, guitarist Jeremy Ylvisaker, and Happy Apple saxophonist Mike Lewis, who also accompanies Dosh on tour. Dosh breaks up and recombines their contributions to create new, flowing currents of polyrhythmic melody. Largely instrumental, his songs are freed from the shackles of verse-chorus-verse structure, and seem instead to evolve like dreams, always in motion and revealing new surprises at each turn.

Originally published on May 12, 2008. Read the complete article.

Why Raiders succeeds where Temple doesn’t

With the long-awaited fourth movie in the Indiana Jones series hitting theaters this week, the obvious question is: Will Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of The Crystal Skull be a worthy successor to the iconic Raiders of the Lost Ark? The answer, of course, will be up on the screen, but in thinking about what creators Steven Spielberg and George Lucas need to do to recapture the early Indy magic, it’s worth looking back at how the previous stories have succeeded — and sometimes failed.

Originally published on May 4, 2008. Read the complete article.

Quiz: Is your ‘Iron Man’ knowledge iron-clad?

Joining Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, the Hulk and other Marvel Comics superheroes, armored crime fighter Iron Man makes his movie debut May 2. Robert Downey Jr. stars as arrogant but charming mechanical genius Tony Stark, who builds a suit of high-technology armor and runs into conflict with his rival Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), a scheming billionaire who steals the Iron Man blueprints for his own nefarious purposes. How well do you know Iron Man and his story? Take our quiz and find out.

Originally published on May 4, 2008. Read the complete article.

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