subtleteeth (n.): some unknown quality that really grabs your attention while not being readily discernible as to just what it is that made you take notice.
It arose from the context of listening to and describing the last edit of a dark ambient piece that we recorded a couple of months ago and which Boss was playing around with mixing tonight.
Subtleteeth refers, I think, to a fundamental feature of good dark ambient work and probably good ambient music in general. That is, unlike the “hook” of a pop song, when we try to discover/reveal whatever it is that actually makes a particular piece interesting, rather than simply being a sonic collage of seemingly random (and therefore probably annoying) noise, to place it right out in the open where it is obvious would utterly destroy the very ambience which defines the (work as belonging to the) genre.
Where the line between art and pretentious shit is very fine, its degrees of subtleteeth point toward which side of, and how far from, that line a given work belongs. Degrees of subtleteeth refer to two characteristics of the quality: 1) how much of one’s attention the piece attracts (the teeth) and 2) how difficult it is to discern/identify/describe the nature of the element(s) so attracting (the subtle). To exemplify (even though they’re not necessarily ambient artists, if artists at all – this quality may be present in any artform), much of Kitaro’s work possesses some degree of subtleteeth while none of Yawni’s does. Steve Roach’es music on the other hand often displays (even while it’s transparent,) invisiblesmiladonfangs as does Nakai, Eaton, and Clipman’s.