WRITTEN BY: Dylan Stevens
Enigmatic Swedish pop/rap artists Bladee and Ecco2k suprise-released a new project titled Crest on March 18th, 2022. The album, completely produced by frequent collaborator Whitearmor, further pushes the boundaries on their distinct fusion of bubblegum pop and trap music. Crest is a glittering soundscape of religious imagery and excessive ditties. Those who have criticized the duo for their esoteric lyrics and falsetto crooning will be disappointed to hear that they have once again upped the ante. Crest is Ecco2k’s first major release since his critically acclaimed 2019 art pop album, E, and his ability to craft sublime hooks and choruses over shimmering production has not faltered. As for Bladee, it has been about a year since he released his latest solo album The Fool in May 2021. The impressive project was populated with a healthy mix of trance-inspired trap bangers like “I Think” and sincere, introspective cloud rap tracks like “Egobaby.” The two artists have enjoyed a slow, steady rise to underground pop rap stardom in recent years. Bladee and Ecco’s Drain Gang collective—who work closely with Yung Lean’s Sad Boys—thrived online before the viral popularity of memeable hyperpop groups like 100 Gecs. The Scandinavian avant garde artists have carved out their own corner of the internet through trap and pop anthems characterized by heavy bass and a boyish, carefree aesthetic. Crest is a deeper dive into the heavenly world of these two creative minds; what is found is their most beautiful work yet.
Crest follows Bladee and Ecco as they float through heaven. Religious references and angelic lines about giving glory to Maria or selfless sacrifice appear all over the album. It is clear that Bladee and Ecco have used their stardom to justify lifestyles of excess spent endlessly searching for artistic answers to life’s biggest questions. The album’s highlights begin with the first track, “The Flag Is Raised,” where the song’s synthetic melodies begin to live somewhere between divine and unsettling. Bladee harps on the beauty of the natural world and emphasizes the importance of self-identity when he says, “I’m but a shell, baby, the hero is the soul,” in his first verse. Ecco sings his praises over Whitearmor’s crisp drum production, propelling the song forwards into ecstasy. Immediately following is “5 Star Crest (4 Vattenrum),” a nearly 9-minute medley featuring five distinct parts. While ambitious, the track’s length creates a tendency to jarringly snap between parts which makes one wonder why these sections are even connected aside from their respective brevity. Bladee and Ecco are given solo time to shine separately in each part, but overall the track might have made more sense as separate, more developed songs.
The pair lull the listener back under their spell on “Yeses (Red Cross).” The bewitched track is one of the most addicting concoctions Bladee and Ecco have ever conjured. Melodic bells shimmer above a strumming synth bass and layered clap while Bladee repeatedly chants “Sex sells” and Ecco describes giving away his belongings to pursue a life of euphoric purity. Whitearmor’s celestial, eclectic production reverberates the track, propelling air into the duo while they chant their lyrics into the void, creating a memorable track in the process. Bladee and Ecco pump up the frenzied energy on “Chaos Follows.” Here, the two describe the anxieties that come with fame as a result of following their dreams. Whitearmor produces a barren, glitchy loop before a booming bassline crashes into the song. Bladee bookends it all, encouraging his listeners to carry on, unafraid to face the dark moments of life.
The penultimate track of Crest is the previously released song “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” Far from the first time that Bladee and Ecco have put androgynous energy into their music—perhaps most notably on their fabulous 2022 single “Amygdala”—this track is a hazy ballad of yearning for a life of unchained expression. The falsetto vocals from the duo are passionate, the kick and snare are driving, and the melody lifts the artists up into an auditory rapture. It is no secret why the song stands out as a fan favorite among a host of other notable collaborations. The album finishes perfectly with “Heaven Sings,” a raw and stripped down peek into Bladee and Ecco’s personal nirvana. The drumless saga lets the artists croon one last time as they debate feelings of superficiality and holiness. In a period defined by so much uncertainty and pain, Bladee and Ecco have attempted to find the beauty in the madness. Baring their hearts over about 30 minutes of unfiltered euphoria, Crest ends like a bedtime story after an acid trip. Pioneering their way through genre-blends and stylish waves of artistic inspiration, it is nice to see that Bladee and Ecco can always find the bright side of their hectic lives.