In an interview in 2019, Bladee unveiled a key moment in his mythos: the time he was struck by lightning during a visit to Thailand. He was far away from his home in Sweden and felt he couldn’t go to the hospital, so he just decided to sleep it off. “I was sure I was gonna die, but I didn’t,” he remembered. “I felt like an angel or something.” It wasn’t the first time the young artist and Drain Gang co-founder—born Benjamin Reichwald—had taken a moment of negativity or trauma and turned it into an existential revelation.
Bladee has made his name on vast, genre-blurring pop music that’s shot through with a delirious, new-age-y optimism. Over euphoric synth arrangements that recall the colorful history of internet rap, the aqueous sounds of chillout rooms at clubs, and Arthur Russell’s first-thought-best-thought pop music, he sings of seeing divine beings, ascending to heaven, and sharing the peace and equanimity he feels with others. As he put it earlier this year, in a bar that feels like a mission statement, “Beauty is my drug, I’m the pusher.” Cryptic yet ecstatic, he’s a true believer in the transcendent power of pop. On his new solo album, Spiderr, he continues to imbue every beat and breath with the urge to pursue a deeper spiritual truth.
Produced almost entirely by frequent collaborator Whitearmor—with some assists from Sad Boys affiliate Gud and Joakim Benon (best known as a member of the dreamy Swedish duo jj)—Spiderr works within a familiar palette of celestial synth arrangements and heavy-lidded, stream-of-consciousness emotion. Lead single “Drain Story” builds on the shapeshifting sound that Bladee has favored over the last few years, full of stuttering percussion, squirming synth, and breathy ad-libs. On paper, it’s not a lot different from PC Music’s pop prismatics, or the Adderall-addled anthemics of plugg, but Bladee’s gauzy falsetto is a calming presence amid the maelstrom, promising peace and answers to life’s most complicated questions. “Give you something to believe in,” he sings. “I got that something that you’ve been seeking.”
Spiderr is more dense and, at times, more compelling than other recent Drain Gang releases because it isn’t purely euphoric; Bladee digs into the darker side of his existential meandering as well. “I Am Slowly But Surely Losing Hope” is exactly what its title promises, a tenuous exploration of weakness, dejection, and despair. It’s one of the most tumultuous arrangements in Bladee’s catalog to date, pairing the chattering electronics that have become Whitearmor’s signature with ragged guitars—a reminder that the members of Drain Gang first united over the shredded sounds of hardcore punk. Though it’s a tense track, full of meditations on loneliness and a plea for a slow death, it makes the album’s lighter moments all the more striking.
Throughout his career, Bladee has occasionally tried to undercut these more moving moments with a brittle sense of humor (and he does so here too, proclaiming on “Dresden ER” that “Life is but a joke”). But he’s at his most affecting when he’s at his most sincere—offering enigmatic, koan-like wisdom over dreamy production that often threatens to drift away into the ether. It’s a vision of pop that’s grounded in real emotion but shrouded in otherworldly mystery. In the process, he re-establishes himself as a kind of musical mystic, unspooling hazy spiritual truths to an increasingly devoted cult of followers.