|The reconfiguration of the popular song that occurred with hip-hop in the mid-80s allowed for unlikely juxtapositions, absences, abstract musical thoughts and witty plundering of pop and rock history. Heavy Metal could conjoin with rap; scratches and drones could supplant tunes; Hall and Oates and Steely Dan could be reanimated in fresh contexts, fresh grooves - the very textures of the song could be ripped away to reveal the inner workings of the beat.|
Could, however, the founding mothers and fathers of hip-hop possibly have had cLOUDDEAD in mind? The connection between cLOUDDEAD and hip-hop is as tenuous as silver thread, yet that very tenuous makes it supremely hip-hop, the joylessly materialistic orthodoxy of 50 Cent et al notwithstanding.
cLOUDDEAD are Doseone, why?, and odd nosdam, three shapeless, skinny dudes who exude a mildly catatonic air in some press shots. Doseone and why? compete on the mic and help out with the instrumentation, nosdam supplies most of the samples. Initially, this music sounds shaggy and boneless, as randomly distributed as bits of rubbish thrown over the shoulder from a skip, only accidentally cohering here and there. Swiftly, however, you begin to appreciate the sheer audacity of this seeming casualness, this daring to allow things to hang together so loosely. Like the group themselves, Ten is forever on the point of falling apart but somehow doesn't.
Lyrically, too, Ten exudes a fog, a steam of consciousness if you will, as on the opening "Pop Song," the former meaning of whose words and phrases evaporates in the air ("The label stapled a speaker to the back of a sheep's throat"). Then you make out a polemical purpose lurking in these verses. Like Dadaist poetry, there's an anger behind the seemingly absurd, as "Pop Song" eventually demonstrates, with its hint of protest at consumerist ennui ("…strangers / chasing themselves in the windows of shops"). This anger is more obvious on "Son of a Gun" with its sudden, savant lucidity ("The makers of guns will never go hungry") and on "The Teen Keen Skip" with its almost reactionary note of despair ("Youngsters today are not prepared / To buy plants or collect stamps"). This, set over an ancient recording of a fey English girl, whose singing voice is caught in a lock groove - a signifier of violated innocence and/ or a mighty fine clickbeat.
Doseone and why?'s lyrics are gathered by wandering randomly on the peripheries of cities. The "strawberry in an ostrich throat" on "The Velvet Ant" is based on a true observation. But they're not merely into oddity. On "Dead Dogs Two," it's as if they're surveying the very smithereens of the modern American landscape, the displacement of former everyday things caused by the imposition of freeways, sports stadia, shopping malls. This is reflected sonically, in the scrapes, beats, disjointed metal, dulled, toxic drones, metamorphoses and small moments of prolapse. It isn't cLOUDDEAD who are strange but all that they take in on their watch.
cLOUDDEAD might rap, but not since Genesis P. Orridge on Throbbing Gristle's "Weeping" have vocals sounded so feeble. This isn't faux-nerdiness but out of whimpering compassion for all neglected things and creatures, even the butterfly with a pin through it on "Our Name."
Still, it feels sinful to decipher, convert or 'straighten out' these wonderful, entangled beats and pieces. For all their seeming disparateness, there's an abiding beauty about Ten, as well as an underlying intensity which spouts like a geyser to the fore on "Our Name," with its Phill Niblock-like, sustained crescendo. Others may rule hip-hop but it's cLOUDDEAD who inherit the earth. - The Wire