Steely Dan UHQR Series





Produced By: Whitearmor, Gud, and Joakim Benon

Mixed By: Whitearmor and Gabriel Schuman

Mastered By: Gabriel Schuman

By: Malachi Lui

October 3rd, 2022

Bladee’s ‘Spiderr’ Is A Dizzying Spectacle Of Glitchy Excess

This era's most enigmatic cult icon delivers his most confusing project yet

The mystery of Bladee increases yet again. Never slowing down for anyone, the 28-year-old Swedish artist and Drain Gang leader returns with Spiderr, his second album this year after March’s Ecco2k collaboration, Crest. Bladee (Benjamin Reichwald) is this era’s most prolific and enigmatic cult icon, constantly evolving his aesthetic as legions of terminally online teenagers rush to copy his every move (and horrifically fail). Since his 2018 mixtape Icedancer, Bladee’s work has shifted from depressive cloud rap gloom to ambient spiritual lightness, all with a healthy layer of mystique. Yet Spiderr is perhaps the most confusing entry in his discography, a dizzying spectacle of paths opened but never completely explored.

Produced primarily by Whitearmor (Ludwig Rosenberg), Spiderr is maximalist in a way that feels overstuffed, constantly disorienting listeners over its 31-minute, 13-track runtime. However, the glitchy excess, which is complemented by nostalgic flashbacks to late 2000s pop music, seems like a distraction from the album’s lack of quality songwriting. At his best, Bladee might be the cloud rap equivalent to Guided By Voices' Robert Pollard, with an astonishing ability to make perfectly complete, melodically addictive two-minute pop songs—“Side By Side,” “Decay,” even “Be Nice 2 Me” or “Hotel Breakfast”—but now, he struggles to say anything at all substantive over any length of time. While Spiderr is immensely layered with concepts, Bladee is too often occupied with his own mythology to fully realize any of them. As a result, the album feels empty, and for all its chaotic turns, simply floats by in the background.

On a song-by-song level, Spiderr sounds like a series of unfinished fragments, all ranging from one to three minutes in length. They work best when there’s an audible tension: the “high highs” and “low lows” depicted over “I Am Slowly But Surely Losing Hope”’s digitally distorted pop punk, “Velociraptor”’s recounting of a trying spiritual journey, and the hectic “Hahah,” with its grimly sarcastic repetition of “I’m doing great.” But Bladee fails when the emotions are less defined; he can reflect the complexities of life, but can’t decode them. “It’s Ok Not To Be Ok” is worse for explicitly saying something that’s much more eloquently implied on Bladee’s older records. Lead single “Drain Story” is an appallingly vapid song with annoyingly off-beat vocals, and “Understatement” is a perplexing and weak album opener. Otherwise, Spiderr is quite forgettable—I’d be hard-pressed to recall much of “Blue Crush Angel” or a single word of “Icarus 3reestyle.”

Bladee’s transition from vampirical coked-out sad boy to new-age hippie cult leader has resulted in a few years of inconsistent output (his Mechatok collaboration Good Luck and the optimistic 333's first half being the best of it), but he’s not the only one sounding rushed. Producer Whitearmor, who once created truly futuristic sonic worlds, has abandoned the synthetic physicality that made his earlier work so unique. Spiderr might be the most overtly experimental work in Bladee and Whitearmor’s long collaborative history, but it’s also their messiest, lacking the focus to be artistically successful. As is, the album cover’s mediocre CGI portrait is perfectly representative of the music. Bladee has moved through various worlds and seen it all, but the image is also reminiscent of visually similar ‘00s animated movies featuring those sorts of characters: epic spectacles that superficially hint at deep concepts, but in execution say a lot of nothing.

The sound quality of the 48kHz/24bit stream is fine, though no one’s expecting any audiophile marvels here. Many of the sounds are intentionally blown out and distorted for artistic purpose, and while it’s all glued together nicely, there’s room for improvement regarding spatial depth. It’s unknown if any physical releases are in the plans, but don’t expect anything until at least next year (and if CD or LP editions materialize, they’ll likely be absurdly limited).

Music Specifications

Label: YEAR0001

Catalog No: YR0168

Channels: Stereo

Presentation: Digital Stream