Crest is a proper Drain Gang victory lap, casting the rappers as dueling new-age pop stars trading verses over expansive, unfixed melodies.
If there were any doubts about the sustainability of Drain Gang and the rabid drainer culture they’ve inspired (and surely there were, and still will be), the Swedish psychedelic rap collective has breezed on by them, seemingly unbothered to the point of aloofness. Their audience only gets bigger (as evidenced by the fairly hyped and largely sold-out world tour currently underway), with the gang — primarily rappers Bladee, Ecco2K, Thaiboy Digital, and producer Whitearmor — apparently undaunted by this shift in visibility. In turn, Drain Gang has kept their base fed, maintaining a steady release pace across the roster for the last few years that’s ensured the Drain brand is perpetually part of the conversation (Bladee currently the most prolific/famous member), justified by the quality of their music and an unfaltering authenticity.
Latest project Crest is a knowing celebration and continuation of the Drain Gang win streak, coming less than a year after Bladee’s excellent The Fool and in the lead-up to the U.S. leg of that aforementioned world tour. Credited to Ecco2K and Bladee and solely produced by Whitearmor, Crest is a proper Drain Gang victory lap, casting the rappers as dueling new-age pop stars trading verses over expansive, unfixed melodies. A concise 30 minutes, the songs on Crest orbit around the album’s second track “5 Star Crest (4 Vattenrum),” a nearly nine-minute opus composed in memory of a friend who recently passed on. Ecco2K and Bladee enter the multi-chapter song lost in darker existential ruminations, still dreamy in tone but lyrically distraught, until Whitearmor turns the page and introduces a series of dramatic melodic switch-ups that recharacterize “5 Star Crest (4 Vattenrum)” as joyous and triumphant, ultimately soundtracking the duo’s reality-altering enlightenment (“Beauty is my drug / I’m the pusher push it” into “Death is beautiful / Give it to me raw”). Downbeat opener “The Flag is Raised” and the subsequent seven tracks that sandwich “5 Star Crest (4 Vattenrum)” play out this narrative in micro, though in the more expected, compact form of hook-centric pop songs. In classic Drain form, these compositions balance a sense of cosmic whimsy with a knowing, postmodern sense of culture that finds resonant pathos in, say, a sly John Denver interpolation that should absolutely be silly. Of course, this is the charm of Drain Gang and the universe they’ve conjured, the passion it has sustained surely a response to the obvious lack of cynical motivation informing these projects. Crest is exemplary of their continued earnestness and suggestive of a creative resilience that confirms theirs as one of the more deservedly hyped pop projects of the moment.
Published as part of Album Roundup — March 2022 | Part 1.