Bladee / Ecco2k: Crest Album Review

Though backed by a fanbase fluent in memes and irony, Swedish band Drain Gang is powered by a rare sincerity. Their music possesses both a childlike wonder, an adolescent infatuation and an adult fear of the future. While much of the rap internet is steeped in ideation and nihilistic rage, and much of the hyperpop they are also tied to is honed to an ironic edge, Drain Gang embodies most the smiling face positivity of the turn-of-the-millennium rave culture, an influence that has been evident in their music for years, but has become even more apparent in their worldview and gigs together.

Drain Gang’s deep connection with their audience mirrors the deep connection between the collective itself. Above their creative kinship or shared tastes is friendship, which you can feel in the ease with which the voices of band members Bladee and Ecco2k blend together on their new project, Crete. The collaborative album has been soaking in for several years now – its first single, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”, is almost a time capsule, a track released in a very different pre-pandemic world in February 2020. Crete was recorded with producer Whitearmor while tucked away in a shack on the beaches of Sweden, not far from where Ingmar Bergman filmed the famous scene where a knight plays chess with Death in The seventh seal.

This kind of existentialism associated with Ingmar Bergman, whether inspired by Lutheran guilt or a more complex Zen understanding, seeps through every beat and bar of Crete. Although not quite religious, Crete plays with the iconography of heaven, angels and ectoplasmic intelligence, constructing a spiritual world that exists beyond dogmas or deities. In almost every song there is a longing for greater beauty beyond oneself, a kind of connection that can only be found in the calling of a rave or the transcendence of the beyond; on “Faust”, Ecco shouts, “I want to live in heaven / I want to get closer to you.” Pure pop isn’t new to Drain Gang, but songs like “White Meadow” reach new heights, a kind of euphoria that can best be described as film music.

While the conception of a seraphic kingdom feels Christian, the philosophical approach adopted is more Buddhist. Bladee and Ecco are only too aware of the pitfalls on the path to self-improvement, falling into the traps of materiality and vanity. as one track puts it bluntly, “Desire Is a Trap”. At the heart of the quest for ascension there is always an emptiness, a desire for beauty and perfection that can evolve into lust – the band’s reluctance to put their own face forward makes sense given the frequent lyrical desire to a different life and self. Mantras are at the heart of Bladee and Ecco’s approach to songwriting, as the words shift and morph into each other through a sort of spiritual loop; “Yes (Red Cross)” begins with Bladee repeating the words “Literal Christ, literal crest” and ends with Ecco’s twirling refrain: “Sex sells/Success/Yes, yes”.

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