Sigmund Freud believed that dreams are the window to the soul, and if we are to believe his theory, every action of our waking lives has been previewed, at one time or another, in our unconscious state. Though the good Doctor Freud was, by all accounts, a bit of a mental furball and a confirmed coke addict, Bay Area surrealists cLOUDDEAD seem to exist solely to quantify his hypothesis; their illusory psychedelic hip-hop simply couldn't come from anywhere but the unconscious, because the manner of blind purity in which they trade simply doesn't exist in any other realm, particularly the media-tainted recesses of the modern consciousness.
Anticon collective members MC Adam "Doseone" Drucker, MC/multi-instrumentalist Joni "Why?" Wolf and producer Dave "Odd Nosdam" Madson stand at the forefront of hip-hop's avant garde, loquacious dreamers who value love and beauty, diamonds and guns. While they all have successful solo ventures (and other high-profile collaborations in Wolf (Hymie's Basement) and Drucker's (Themselves) case) under their belts, the mysterious magnificence they conjure on Ten is truly unlike anything else you'll hear this year, hip-hop or otherwise -- unless, of course, you're originally from Jupiter.
Ten strikes a counterbalance between the bizarre and the vulnerable. For every stunning dust-collage like "3 Twenty", there's a gut-wrenching line like "A murder of mosquitoes, moths, and gnats ravage the fluorescent flickering ribs of a motel lot floodlight / their frantic trajectories perfectly sketching insane on its halogen corona", or a slow-motion serenade to fallen revolutionaries like "Son of a Gun". Sometimes, as with "Dead Dogs Two", cLOUDDEAD's art is painfully beautiful -- Wolf and Drucker battling it out like slurred circus freaks over a funereal dirge of wheezing synths and kettle-top beats -- while at other intervals, such as the status quo-baiting "Pop Song" and the semi-autobiographical "Rhymers Only Room", they remain the very definition of boho cool, all cryptically self-deprecating lyrics and samples so willfully obscure as to be utterly fashionable.
When they set loose a stampede of glacial synths and martial cadences on "Physics of a Unicycle", they aren't merely trying to replicate Boards of Canada's pastoral beauty. They have a more benevolent agenda: like scruffy soothsayers with complicated Leonard Cohen fetishes, they seek to give speech to those without mouths, vision to those who lack eyes, and most importantly, sound to those without ears. They're not divine by any means, but cLOUDDEAD are much like the figures Freud saw in his own dreams --misunderstood minstrels in a land where mediocrity is valued over original ideas, and where the unfamiliar is often dismissed as the byproduct of lunacy.
Those with the time and patience allowed for Ten to fully incubate in their brains will be rewarded with music so mind-warping that it won't truly be appreciated for thirty years. Shallow souls looking to it for a quick hip-hop fix will find little besides confusion and derision within Ten's clouded walls.