Don't think too hard about this stuff. The music of cLOUDDEAD isn't hip-hop, trip-hop, ambient or drum 'n' bass. Instead, it's stylistically schizophrenic, hovering somewhere in the gray area between all those genres. A collaboration among the three mad scientists Doseone, why? and odd nosdam, cLOUDDEAD's sophomore album, 'Ten' (Mush), is overflowing with innovation. Employing a creative process that is both playfully silly and feverishly dark, the music consists mainly of beats and keyboards layered over organic instrumentation and incidental-noise samples that have been skewered to the point of insanity. The vocals of Doseone and why? are a combination of perfectly synchronized half-sung and half-rapped lyrics, executed with surreal beatnik-style poetics.

Doseone (a.k.a. Adam Drucker) and why? (a.k.a. Yoni Wolf) met in college in Cincinnati. In 1997 they formed the hip-hop improv group Apogee, but eventually the two began recording together and self-releasing albums as Greenthink. During this time they met odd nosdam (a.k.a. Dave Madson) who according to Drucker, "had the same shitty four-track as us," and soon the trio spawned cLOUDDEAD's self-titled debut. "I think that cLOUDDEAD is a linear progression from the Greenthink stuff," explains Wolf, "with the added stuff that Dave brought in."

It's not surprising that cLOUDDEAD had an immediate impact on music's underground, with a fan base spanning from skaters to indie-rap connoisseurs. With odd nosdam providing the beats, bass and ambient atmospherics, Doseone and why? are given free reign to talk it up with lyrics that are either absurd or horrifying, depending on how closely you're paying attention. The vocalists also contribute their fair share of scrap samples and instrumentation, including guitar and even blender solos. When it came time to create 'Ten', the three masters of their trade devised a secret recipe for their symphony of madness.

"The first record was different in that we'd pass stuff back and forth, or Dose would write a verse and I'd write a verse," explains Wolf. "With 'Ten', we wrote everything, with a couple of exceptions, together."

"It's a focused effort as opposed to just a product of creativity," says Drucker. "Our writing evolved to be a very distinct blend that both why? and I share about bits and parts of the working world, and our confusion of our presence in it. So eventually we just had this sound in our head, and 'Ten' is a product of us going for that."

While cLOUDDEAD was primarily an electro jam session, 'Ten' was meticulously compiled. The lyrics were written out as poems before the music was created, and every sound was handled with great care. "Sometimes we'd sit and listen to a track over and over again, trying to find what's missing," says Drucker.

The lyric-writing process began with Doseone and why? taking seemingly mundane topics and warping them into complex songs. "Suddenly in our world things come to a focus and the loops in our heads become prevalent themes," says Drucker, "and the rest is just word choice and clarity." 'Ten' is dominated by such eerie and metaphorical images as dead dogs, car crashes and "bacteria gang-banging in the window cracks." The music doesn't really speak for itself but rather speaks for whatever twisted daydreams it invokes in the listener's mind. "We find ourselves entertained by a somewhat darkened world," continues Drucker, "and we find that grotesque details bring the most out of us."

While 'Ten' is a stellar effort, it's also the end of a short-lived era. Each member is busy with solo albums and other collaborative recordings - including Hood, Hymie's Basement, Themselves and Reaching Quiet - and thus cLOUDDEAD was never a main project or even a side project , but simply a fleeting moment in their lives.

"'Ten' really served its purpose," explains Drucker. "That's why it's the conclusion of cLOUDDEAD, because it feels like the shared experience between the three of us has been encapsulated. I don't know what else we would make music out of."


Mush Records