[Mush; 2004]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: experimental hip-hop, ambient rap
Others: Themselves, Boards of Canada, Hood

After receiving widespread acclaim and completing individual projects, the trio that is cLOUDDEAD arrives with Ten. Though fans may be disappointed that Eddie Vedder does not appear as a guest, the improvement in cLOUDDEAD's unique sound suffices. Their in-between album EP, The Sound of a Handshake/This About the City, was an accurate indication of things to come. More harmonies and a stress on melody push the group into the lo-fi pop field, while maintaining the ambient sound (courtesy of Nosdam's disfigured samples and conventional drum patterns) that they've become identifiable with.

Appropriately, the album begins with "Pop Song." Doseone's whispering chant of "cotton candy" and why?'s exasperated croon of "what happened?" ride over the tightest snare Nosdam has ever produced. The voice of a young English boy comes in as "The Teen Keen Skip" starts. Dose and why? join this sampled voice over what may be Nosdam's most unbearable snare ever. No worries, though. The other elements within the beat solve this "tinny" dilemma.

"Rhymer's Only Room" and "The Velvet Ant" both clock in at less than three minutes. The former involves only a refrain, which undergoes subtle lyric variations before closing out with industrial phaser effects. The latter exercises the observational style of writing that Dose and why? do so well. "The makers of guns will never go hungry," is sung on "Son of a Gun." This song may come off as clichéd and "corny," but it's salvaged when they start to list cultural figures ranging from Tupac and Biggie to Julius Caesar with a panting delivery, claiming they all "jumped the gun." The numerous change-ups within these songs do a great service to the listener. cLOUDDEAD gives their audience incentive to keep on listening, even if the beginning moments of a track seem less inspired.

"Rifle Eyes" and "Physics of a Unicycle" penetrate with layered vocals, rapid deliveries, and broken down samples. "3 Twenty" is a mostly instrumental piece, where Nosdam once again proves he's the driving force behind cLOUDDEAD. The final song, "Our Name" has a robotic-sounding Dose churning over blips and bloops. A reformed gangsta vocal sample and a dense buildup at the end, round out another successful album.

Ten has solidified cLOUDDEAD as a genre-crossing powerhouse loved by just about anyone who's willing to give them a chance. The mesmerizing quality they create through drone beats and varied vocals engage the listener in a whirlwind of noise, and it rarely ever lets up. Here's to another great album from the three guys who keep their experimentation accessible.

1. Pop Song
2. The Teen Keen Skip
3. Rhymer's Only Room
4. The Velvet Ant
5. Son of a Gun
6. Rifle Eyes
7. Dead Dogs Two
8. 3 Twenty
9. Physics of a Unicycle
10. Our Name