cLOUDDEAD

Ten

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The most artistic hip-hop has usually relied on a rapper's ability to transmit to listeners an eye-level view of his surroundings (and possibly comment on them), but what are a group of rappers to do when those experiences -- on a video shoot, no less -- apparently include the following, as cLOUDDEAD claim?: "Two small girls and a handful of dressed men walk a cage full of goats across a basketball court." ("Rifle Eyes," their response to 9/11, is only slightly more bizarre.) The only question is whether this trio of subunderground rappers, influenced by Eno much more than EPMD, can conjure a musical backing that fully conveys the surreality of their surroundings. Surprisingly, the mélange of tape grime and nth-gen samples that constitutes Ten is certainly the proper arrangement for these psychedelic, stream-of-consciousness raps. Doseone and Why? pair their vocals or mumble or speak in nursery-school singsong, while head producer Odd Nosdam plunders thrift-shop LPs and forgotten reel-to-reel recordings for samples, often airing spoken-word passages as between-bars commentary. Random and disorienting on a first listen, Ten is actually a closely composed piece of modernist music. Not what you'd call an enjoyable listen, but one to be respected anyway, and also one that worms its way into your head.

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