by Jack Marley-PayneIn the summer of 1998, four hip-hop artists were disillusioned with the bravado and posturing seemingly entailed by their career choice and so decided to try for a change. The result of said decision was Deep Puddle Dynamics’ The Taste of Rain…Why Kneel? On this album, one cannot find any self-referencing, machismo or cheap jokes. Instead we are presented with challenging sounds, complex structures and some of the oddest (if you’re cruel: ridiculous) lyrics recorded this side of the sixties- ‘In the immortal words of Oliver Wendell Holmes “A mind that is stretched to a new idea never returns to its original dimension.”’With this was born the Anticon label and the genre many refer to as ‘Back-pack hip-hop’- as no one likes to be pigeon-holed, this term is rejected by most of the artists who fall under it. Basically, it is concerned with forward thinking rappers who combine their native style with less conventional elements- namely the ambition of progressive rock and the sonic experimentation and out-there lyrics of pyschedelia. If this all sounds too much, remember that it does have the strong and catchy beats intrinsic to hip-hop. The compilation from Anticon entitled Music for the Advancement of Hip-Hop gives an overview of the ideas involved and is exceptionally mixed to boot.Perhaps the high point of this style thus far is cLOUDDEAD and their self-titled album. It is beautifully crafted and really blurs the boundary between singing and speaking. Mesmerising sounds are created as the members talk simultaneously or go round saying one word each. The voices slip in and out of focus so you only catch mystical snatches- ‘Space is potent.’ Vocals are complimented by some inspired production and samples that are both comic and creepy. If you do nothing else, at least give this a go. The genre is constantly developing and diversifying as more and more influences are accumulated. Elephant Eyelash by Why? puts most straight indie bands to shame whilst Boom Bip and Doseone’s Circle seems to be a sort of aural depiction of a hypnosis induced regression. In short, this is one of the few genuinely exciting movements around right now. Whereas so much of what claims to be new is just digging out old styles we’ve forgotten a bit, these guys are making stuff that sounds like nothing that’s been heard before. An idiot might suggest: ‘it’s a sound like no other.’ Idiot or not, you should investigate.