By Rob van Alstyne
By Zach McCormick
By Emily Eveland
By Jack Spencer
By Michael Madden
By Reed Fischer
By Emily Weiss
By Emily Weiss
Something about Doseone reminds me of Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull. This troubles me greatly. There's no good reason the highly inventive, abstract hip-hop poet from cLOUDDEAD should bring to mind a 1970s prog rocker who somehow manages to be simultaneously populist and pretentious, like Rush (the Limbaugh and the band). The comparison is very disconcerting--as if your brand-new baby sister reminded you of John Ashcroft. I can't quite put my finger on the Doseone-Ian Anderson similarities. I know it's definitely not the haircuts. Or the clothes.
But the two artists do share one or two traits--a predilection for the epic, and a certain theatricality. Tull have always tended toward the marathon concept full-length, a tendency prog rock and hip hop share abundantly. Conversely, cLOUDDEAD make their tracks short and sweet, somewhere in the six-to-seven-minute range. Yet each is an epic unto itself, with little movements and tempo changes and everything. Better still, none of the songs on cLOUDEAD are about Nobby the Gnome, or the Tragic Life and Early Death of a Young Hustla on the Cruel Streets of Life, or anything nearly that conventional. In fact, they're so conceptual, they're not about anything at all: They just are.
Dose, fellow poet in residence Why?, and sound sculptor Odd Nosdam have the sense to temper all their abstraction with a massive dose of charm. Consider "I taught myself to survive/A four-story fall/Wearing a spacesuit/And a dead Englishman's socks/It's a textbook procedure, kid." A stanza like that is pretty much an epic in itself, especially when it's laid atop one of Nosdam's lush, lo-fi soundtracks, which can bring to mind everything from ambient-era Aphex Twin (or maybe Boards of Canada) to a more fully baked version of that Stereolab/Nurse With Wound collaboration that was released a few years back.
And realistically, cLOUDDEAD might very well appeal to fans of Stereolab or Nurse With Wound. Even the guys in Jethro Tull might like this record--an outcome that would fit nicely with Dose's stated mission: in a number of interviews, he's said that he's making "hip hop for grownups" and for his little sister. The album's got depth, complexity, and resonance to spare--all those things grownups are supposed to (and should) like. Little sisters, too.