For nearly the last decade, Swedish crooner Bladee, along with collective Drain Gang, has remained a staple in left-field hip-hop and pop scenes, skillfully blending autotune-washed depressive musings with hazy, shimmering trap instrumentals to create colorfully bleak atmospheres. Bladee has also been the topic of numerous memes, primarily surrounding his contentious vocal style and abstract lyricism. While his older music was marked by bitter self-hatred and a dissatisfaction with the mundanity of material life, Bladee’s newer material is much more concerned with reaching euphoric spiritual states. The latest of this material is Spiderr, which doesn’t go out of its way to make any grand musical statements. The project keeps up Bladee’s consistent streak of electrifying twists on pop and hip-hop, building on previous works while incorporating new sounds.
Spiderr functions as a creative playground — it’s almost entirely produced by Drain Gang’s Whitearmor, who meshes his signature comfy synth-pop he perfected on Bladee and fellow Drain Gang member Ecco2K’s collaboration album Crest (released earlier this year) with a range of new influences. Take “UNDERSTATEMENT,” the opening track. The combination of pure saw synths and UK drill-inspired hi-hat patterns could sound hollow in the context of Bladee’s discography, but woven together by characteristic reverb-laden synths, it produces a dazzling tune. The track is dreamy yet anthemic, one that branches out without sacrificing Bladee’s core identity. The rest of the album fluctuates between these strange and familiar places — from the restless pop punk of “Velociraptor” to the bittersweet ’80s pop pastiche of “DRESDEN ER,” Spiderr’s success comes from this inventive experimentation. Its collage of sounds never feels too forced or one-noted, which makes for a very enjoyable listening experience.
While it’s not the frigid landscapes of his 2016 album Eversince, Spiderr scales back the enveloping sunniness found on The Fool and Crest. The songs are imbued with a sense of trepidation, almost like they’re awaiting a doomed fate. “I AM SLOWLY BUT SURELY LOSING HOPE” is a prime example of this, as the lyrics describe a fear of an imminent threat: “Feeling really, really, really weak / I’m trying to flee it but I see you when I sleep.” Others, like “ITS OK TO NOT BE OK,” call for someone to “save” him. If Crest was a spiritual high, Spiderr is the reality check, as Bladee struggles between his hedonistic ambitions and quest for spiritual enlightenment. Jittery percussion and stuttering synths soundtrack this internal discord, creating a weirdly fascinating uneasiness. The glitchy instrumental of “DRAIN STORY” feels like Bladee’s world is collapsing upon itself, with the synths sounding like a broken machine. Spiderr’s musical canvas, while uncomfortable, gives the album’s lyrical topics a lot of depth, and provides an imaginative twist on the spiritual themes permeating his last couple of releases.
It’d be a stretch to say Bladee is a talented singer by most measures — even with autotune, he can end up sounding awkward and off-key. But the appeal lies in the feelings he evokes, and Spiderr is no different. “HAHAH,” arguably the centerpiece of the album, is a fantastic display of his vocal ability — over a hard-hitting, unnerving instrumental, the introduction consists of him screaming “I’m crazy” with increasingly frantic delivery. It’s raining hell, and “HAHAH” is Bladee coping.
Spiderr does many things well — it’s inventive, thematically interesting and creates intoxicating atmospheres. But it’s not without its faults. While the rehashed spiritual themes are put into an exciting new context, some of the lyrical tropes, like “dream in a dream” (used previously on “BBY” and “Amygdala”), feel a tad stale. Spiderr is also incredibly diverse in sound, but songs like “URIEL OUTRO” sound like lazily-inserted Crest rejects. Despite not being as monumental an artistic progression as Crest or 333, Spiderr is a splendid addition to Bladee’s colossal discography, exploring intriguing new narratives and sonic directions that may be a precursor to his next artistic evolution.
Daily Arts Contributor Thejas Varma can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org