The depressive English rock band Hood and the whacked-out Bay Area hip-hop outfit cLOUDDEAD seem at first blush unlikely collaborators, and the sound of the two groups working together on Hood's new album, Cold House, does at first startle: "They Removed All Trace That Anything Had Ever Happened Here" starts out as a pretty swatch of minor-key guitar melancholy with a thin layer of glitch electronics laid over the top--something like Kid A freed of the major-label pressure to perform a task. But then cLOUDDEAD member Dose One shows up, dropping a double-time rap into the bubbling space-age ambience like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Radiohead hooked up ages ago, taking the song into some weird, unmapped place where housing projects litter the English countryside and busted transistor radios pick up alien broadcasts from South Central.
Dose One and his partner Why? don't show up again till a little later, but their presence spurs Hood on to move past the spooky post-rock it's mastered, pushing it into "This Is What We Do to Sell Out(s)," which Autechre-izes smooth lounge jazz, and the Björk-meets-Eno head-nodder "Branches Bare." Live, the band allows the sampler to get a little more wicked than I normally enjoy, reducing taffy-thick electric-piano parts to trebly tinkles and creepy string parts to window dressing, but it's almost worth it to watch the drummer try his hardest to smack his way out of the corner the programmed beats perpetually back him into. What's really amazing is that in doing it the guy practically swings--a near-first in pasty British white-boy indie rock.
cLOUDDEAD ventures even further from preconceptions on its self-titled debut, which collects a smattering of limited-edition 10-inches it's released on the forward-thinking L.A.-based label Mush, which is sort of to commercial hip-hop what Sonic Youth's SYR imprint is to instrumental guitar music: an outpost for material that bears only the most tangential relationship to our popular conception of the form in question. Appropriately, the hip-hop here is stretched almost beyond recognition, floating dense verses about art and its nature over churning pools of blunted beats that go in and out of focus like water itself. (And those are the songs that actually have beats.) No idea what these guys'll do at the Ridglea, but if it's anything like what they put on wax, don't expect to get it right away.