Ten by cLOUDDEAD
by Ian Simmons
[ cdreviews ]
In the 25 or so years since it hit the streets, hiphop has taken some strange twists and turns, from the macho posturing of gangsta rap to nerdy white boys collaging old easy listening discs into strange new shapes. cLOUDEAD dwell on the nerdy white boy end of the spectrum and bear as much resemblance to mainstream hiphop as the fall do to chart pop. The words are rapped (sort of), but in weedy Californian college-boy tones, and with lines like "The label stapled a speaker to the back of a sheep's throat", or "People are aborting full-grown goats" (they appear to have a deeper than usual interest in ruminants). While the music is constructed by cutting and scratching of some kind, it is completely unlike anything Run DMC would recognise. Indeed, the entire musical construction of this is so nebulous and fragmented that it is surprising it holds together at all. But hold together it does, and with disconcertingly excellent results.
While there is nothing in the components that go together to make the cLOUDEAD sound that suggest anything remotely workable is going to emerge, the outcome is head-turningly amazing and has the listener constantly thinking "did they really just do that?" For example, 'Keen Teen Click' begins with a recording of an androgynous English child's voice reciting a nursery rhyme in a cut-glass accent of a kind extinct since the late-1950s. The record sticks as she/he begins to sing, creating a click-beat out of the first note, a repetitive weh, weh, that underpins the rest of the track. Elsewhere, on the single 'Dead Dogs Two' they create probably the best dead animal song since Loudon Wainwright's 'Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road' (or possibly 'Old Shep') and reveal some of their allegiances by having it remixed by Boards of Canada. Even more than most hiphop, Ten seems to have been created by random skip-diving in the detritus of modern culture, and Why? Dosoeone and Odd Nosdam, the three Oakland obsessives from the Anticon collective who make up cLOUDEAD, appear to have taken waaaay too many interesting drugs and read far too much obscure literature to ever have created anything remotely mainstream. That they managed to create anything at all, let alone something as arresting as this is mildly surprising. Even more surprising is the profile Ten is receiving - it featuring prominently in a major record store's recent ad campaign.
If something this determinedly outré can sell in chainstore numbers, there is hope for the music industry yet - roll on the cLOUDEAD look-alikes on Stars in Their Eyes. Now that I'd like to see!