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Californian hip-hop gets spacey.
What do you call a band that has six legs, two mouths and three very twisted brains?
The answer is cLOUDDEAD. But that’s an easy one compared to working out how to describe the dark stew that oozes from the trio’s second long player, Ten, the follow-up to their eponymous debut LP from 2001 which had everyone struggling to sum up a sound that’s part hip-hop, part psychedelia and part “what the hell was that?”. Not that its creators are offering any clues.
“Ten has stretched into its own space and time,” claims rapper Doseone. “But the straight-face mood and haphazard air of cLOUDDEAD the entity still run the show. Ten is short, space-time is long, and Ten is black and white while space-time is pink and purple.” Of course, the last thing you’d expect from cLOUDDEAD are easy answers.
As befits a band who namecheck Dylan Thomas over accepted hip-hop forefathers like Grandmaster Flash, rappers Doseone and why? deal in cryptic conundrums rather than street slang, while Odd Nosdam’s production dredges up electronica and My Bloody Valentine-style soundscapes. It’s an often impenetrable sound, which has led to accusations of smartarse surrealism from the more conservative corners of the rap community. But many now recognise this primordial musical soup as the place where hip-hop’s evolution is occurring – including electronica hermits Boards Of Canada who were tempted into ultra-exclusive remix duties on new single, Dead Dogs Two.
“Electronica has certainly influenced my drive to develop my own sound because I really appreciate the distinct personality that Aphex Twin or Daedalus put into their music,” says Odd Nosdam, while, in reaction to their detractors, why? claims, “We just make the music that comes to us. Each song has a true meaning but if they seem obtuse it’s probably because they’re so personal only we can understand them.”
Ten also reflects a change in the dynamics of the group, after why? and Odd Nosdam moved from Cincinatti to join Doseone in Oakland, California. The Bay Area is not only the nucleus of the alt hip-hop scene, focused around cLOUDDEAD’s American label Anticon, but it was also the epicentre of the 60s psychedelic explosion, the narcotic wreckage of which clearly influences cLOUDDEAD much more than the Californian sunshine.
“The psychedelic element probably emerged due to Doseone’s excessive use of acid,” why? Opines. “But as much as we tried to curb him he said he didn’t have a problem.” Turn on, tune in, freak out. Paul Clarke 23 January 04
cLOUDDEAD – Dead Dogs Two, released 26 January 04 on Big Dada. Ten, released 08 March 04.
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