cLOUDDEAD 

Ten

The Anticon clan once sold T-shirts emblazoned with the saying "Destroying Hip-Hop Since 1998," and that still holds true -- with each release, the crew somehow gets a little more focused and a little more bizarre. Ten, by the ever-discussed trio cLOUDDEAD, is the Oakland crew's latest weapon of mass destruction.

cLOUDDEAD is a melding of two spiral notebook poet MCs (Dose One and Why?) with metronome-like DJ and producer Odd Nosdam, who is obsessed with dusty beats and space rock drones. Their sound obeys a sort of deconstructionist ethic: Destroy what you know so beauty can emerge. This apparently means singing in faux British accents -- on the opener "Pop Song," Dose One's patented nasal whine supplies the vocal rhythm, while the music chugs along like a severely fractured Spiritualized ballad.

This album varies much from the trio's self-titled 2001 debut, a concoction of dusty, mid-paced beats looped behind tweaked-out space rock samples. Ten leans more to the pop side of things, with decidedly less hip-hop flavor, depending on a variety of drones, catchy keyboard melodies, and sing-song vocal acrobatics. It's a weird but great ride, but unfortunately, it might also be cLOUDDEAD's last -- according to Ten's liner notes and the band's recent cover story in The Wire, the chances of another album range from definite pessimism to cautious optimism. But then again, who knows what might fly up from the ashes of this weird and wonderful pyre?

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