Review Summary: cLOUDDEAD are better than whatever hip-hop you're listening to.
“Play me some beautiful, dreamy music dear Prince.”
CLOUDDEAD just can’t be potholed into a genre, nor can they be potholed into not having one. Whatever they are obviously exists, but the debate rages on so wildly as to what they are definable by that it is probably simpler to just accept them as another terribly out-there Anticon project (although released on the Mush record label, all the players here are a part of Anticon). Playing with more musical genres than Beck ever even tried to imagine, cLOUDDEAD is easily one of the most unique groups of the 21st century.
This collaboration by the Anticon Collective features Doseone and why? as the two featured MC’s, they bring a great juxtaposition of styles (Doseone being a very fast, nasal rapper while why? is more traditional and introspective in sound), and end up as one of the better rap-duo’s of our generation. Bringing up most of the production duties is Odd Nosdam, who instead of even trying to produce a hip hop (hell, even trip hop) album ends up creating a strange mix of Brian Eno/Tangerine Dream hybrid soundscapes with some of the best sampling this side of…well, no one.
is a compilation of 6 of cLOUDDEAD’s early EPs, the most notable being Apt A
, Jimmy Breeze
, and Bike
. Not to say any of the other rough six “parts” are under par; every aspect of this album performs brilliantly. The EPs themselves were never separated into tracks within themselves, just sides. So within each “side” (each EP had two, obviously) there actually reside 2, 3, or 4 mini tracks that can be distinguished. While it makes listening to the album at first a trip and a tad bit difficult, it ends up only reinforcing the fact that these six EPs essentially convey one phase of cLOUDDEAD’s early existence and that tracks don’t really matter here.
The album begins with a slow building layer to the introduction of why? and Doseone. As the first part of the suite finishes, one of the few guest spots of the record kicks in with Illogic taking the mic. Its this track where one of the main dynamics of cLOUDDEAD is revealed; the difference in vocal deliveries and the production. While the MC’s have a very distinct presence within the music, the accompanying music is often obscured or sonically blurred. It creates an interesting melding, especially considering both parts still have an abstract way about them.
Being a compilation, each of the 6 EPs have a distinct way about them. The And All You Can Do Is Laugh
section puts a darker spin on what Apt A
started, and the two sides are cut apart by a horrifying female scream to accentuate this. I Promise Never To Get Paint On My Glasses
is probably the most hip-hop oriented part of the album, as Doseone and why? Take over and put the song into cruise control (it’s also probably the least inventive EP here, except for the excellent sped up sample at around the 45 second mark that brings in the first song transition).
The first side of Jimmy Breeze
ends up being a welcome surprise; its made up of mostly video game samples. Having Doseone and his eccentric rapping style (polyrhythmic, some would call it) over the theme from the Space Station in Super Metroid
works wonders, as does having why? Contemplate life over the underwater Super Mario Bros music. Side B goes back to a more I Promise…
feel, which while slightly disappointing only gives us more of that awesome material.
The final two tracks are almost unanimously declared to be the most original (AKA weird) material on this album (and arguably that cLOUDDEAD put out). Cloud Dead Number Five
introduces an almost post-rock meets Brian Eno type vibe, being the first part here to rely completely on Nosdam’s dream-like soundscape. It’s the most tranquil of the 6 EP’s to be found here, and while it could use with some cutting down (as good of a sampler/producer as Nosdam, he can’t make 11 minutes interesting enough to justify his self-indulgence), it’s still a strong section.
Then comes Bike
. I’m still not quite sure what to make of Bike
to be perfectly honest. It starts out with some grunting and the exclamation “Here’s My Tennis Ball!” It then goes into something you wouldn’t be surprised to find on a Kanye West album (if he got ten times more experimental). Then, shI
gets really insane as Doseone and why? presents raps that, either through reversing the vocal track or and actual backwards performance, are played in their entirety in reverse. It’s moments like that that are found throughout Bike
, and make it the epitome of weirdness in cLOUDDEAD’s music.
The lyrical matter ranges from incredibly deep to just plain silly. Sometimes Dose will be going on about how to survive a fall from a Four Story Building, while at other times relating the physics of a bicycle to existence as a whole. No matter what, its always incredibly abstract and esoteric, often relating to subjects previously brought up. One of the strongest examples of their wordplay (and how their strange delivery makes even the most whack rhymes work) can be found on Apt. A
”/i've been living in a record skipped filmstrip.
i'm falling off the side of the boat and when i hit water,
i'm falling off the side of the boat.
i fall asleep hoping tomorrow tastes like poems and honeysuckle.
i move slow 'cause the sky looks bluer when you *** the order of the day
or the way the shelves were meant to fit.
i wish i had a pair of stilts to wear
while i play the flute in some light-traffic hallway in my old high school.
but these are only threats to the seated self.
maybe spain is the open-faced smile
from some life i saw in a movie, and always thought i'd live.
This album really can’t be explained much further. While it’s a trial to try and get into past the first few sides, the end result is infinitely worth it. It furthers the boundaries of what hip hop and electronica can do together, while incorporating elements of multiple other genres into the mix. It can go from being incredibly upbeat to incredibly melancholy, angry to introspective, from joking to wondering what the meaning of it all is. Whatever Dose, why? and Nosdam attempted to accomplish with cLOUDDEAD, they certainly achieved it here. Just what exactly they wanted to accomplish is anyone’s guess.