Artists Bladee and Mechatok, each identified for his or her colourful and cryptic social media aesthetics, seem unnatural sitting within the beige, monochromatic room they’re calling from. The room and their outfits — black sweatshirts for each and, for Mechatok, a black New York Yankees cap — are antithetical to the picture the pair have crafted for themselves via their music and on-line presence. The informal groutfits had been a stark departure from their established aesthetic, saturated with shiny colours and glowing figures to enhance their hyper-produced pop songs.
Video-calling in from their label YEAR0001’s workplace in Stockholm, Sweden, the 26-year outdated Swedish rap icon — identified by his followers as an “autotune angel” — and the 23-year outdated German producer sat down with The Harvard Crimson to speak about their newest album, “Good Luck,” and what it’s prefer to create collaboratively when the world is on pause.
That very same distinction between the room and their outfits is obvious in how they work together. Bladee, the blueprint “tender boy,” is obscure and laconic in his descriptions of the music and course of behind it, whereas Mechatok serves nearly as his translator, taking Bladee’s responses and including to them with examples and imagery. Nearly two years of partnership has clearly molded a synergetic duo.
In “Good Luck,” too, distinction leads the way in which. All through the album, the duo mix expansive, ethereal tracks like “Intro” and “Grace” with infectious dance beats like “God” and “Solar,” offering listeners with a wide selection of musical soundscapes to expertise. Escapist lyrics about spirituality and the ennui of the on a regular basis conflict with shiny, saturated manufacturing — simply as their on a regular basis outfits conflict with the extraordinary picture the artists have crafted for themselves on-line.
Bladee, whose actual title is Benjamin Reichwald, has been a rising determine within the cloud rap and pop genres, together with fellow Swedish rappers Yung Lean and Ecco2k, since he launched his first album in 2016. He’s additionally identified for being the CEO of Drain Gang, a creative collective made up of rappers Bladee, Ecco2k, and Thaiboy Digital and producers Whitearmor and Yung Sherman. His musical roots lie in an early punk band he fashioned with Ecco2k.
Mechatok, actual title Timur Tokdemir, hails from Munich, Germany, the place he lived earlier than shifting to Berlin and immersing himself as a producer within the metropolis’s in depth membership tradition. Classically skilled within the guitar till the age of 18, Tokdemir has since reduce his tooth producing home, rap, and pop music.
In contemplating his roots in classical music and the impact they’ve had on his music at this time, he mentioned, “There’s one thing very pure about… transcriptions for guitar. [They] have this factor to them that such as you form of must merge within the chords, the melody and all the things into these six strings…. So there’s one thing about this compactness and type of like deep emotionality of that, that type of trickled down into the productions I do.”
Most of the album’s eight songs sound radically completely different from each other, partially due to Reichwald and Tokdemir’s various musical backgrounds. It’s that putting dialectic that drives the album ahead. Whereas nonetheless advancing the musical traditions that every artist is thought for — Reichwald along with his cryptic lyrics and signature autotune, Tokdemir along with his melody-driven mixes — “Good Luck” stands out towards the catalog of each artists as an indication of development from the expertise of collaboration.
“That is… a part of why we labored collectively,… as a result of it is like, form of a unique sound from what I might usually do,” Reichwald mentioned earlier than later including, “I do not perhaps assume as a lot of the method and these points of what a track is.”
“That is in all probability one of many greatest issues I’ve realized from this collaboration,” Tokdemir added. “Benjamin had this type of factor, the place [writing] is that this type of stream of consciousness that you just then curate afterwards, which makes the outcomes appear rather more easy and form of as if it was spawned out of nowhere, quite than feeling like this nearly pressured and tremendous labored factor that perhaps lacks a little bit of emotionality typically.”
For the pair, these variations meant that “Good Luck” required a great deal of experimentation. Although Tokdemir has labored with Drain Gang prior to now, contributing to the collective’s 2019 EP “Trash Island,” and with Reichwald particularly on the 2019 single “All I Need,” “Good Luck” is the primary time the pair has collaborated so extensively. For the creatively various duo, the creation of the album was a sluggish and deliberate course of of mixing influences and practices. At its core, it concerned including and eradicating devices and layers of monitor till the ultimate product sounded particular sufficient to get the purpose throughout however stripped down sufficient in order that it exists as an essence of the factor.
“The precise making of the track may be very intuitive. We simply made it in a single go just about after which we’d do this sort of train the place we, by listening to it, attempt to resolve, ‘What’s the most effective type?’” Reichwald mentioned of their artistic course of. “Then we would have the unique vein of one thing that simply form of got here to us with out considering.”
“It is so much about discount,” Tokdemir added. “Which is humorous as a result of… in some songs that then means essentially the most important model of it’s one thing that is very dancey and has a kick drum and like, you recognize, you’ll be able to play it within the membership or no matter. For another ideas, it resulted in it simply being essentially the most stripped down ambient factor, as a result of that was sufficient for this emotion to be conveyed.”
The final track on the album, “Grace,” for instance, is nearly solely constructed by sampling a single sound: the bell that comes on in airplanes when the seatbelt signal goes off. The sense of tension that comes from that singular sound — and from the varied distortions of it that Tokdemir creates — is sufficient to drive house the thought introduced in Reichwald’s lyrics: “Come down with grace.”
Nonetheless, the pairing — whereas discovering power in its distinction — was not wholly sudden. The 2 artists function primarily inunder overlapping circles, and just lately, Reichwald had spent a lot of this previous 12 months dwelling in Berlin, resulting in the proper alternative for in-person collaboration, even amid a rising pandemic.
Past circumstance, the 2 artists additionally share an analogous ear for music and style for robust hooks and melodies that primed them for a fruitful collaboration.
“We undoubtedly really feel like we’d have made this mission or one thing that seemed like this at one level, anyway, as a result of we each have been actually into exploring these sorts of songs,” Reichwald mentioned.
“I assume once I was taking part in one in every of my lead melodies or no matter,… I spotted that they are like, basically utilizing the identical notes that [Reichwald’s] vocal melodies use. It is like pentatonic scales and these type of quiet, ethereal seeming, tremendous catchy, very decreased melodies that you could form of loop into infinity,” Tokdemir added, citing that it was then that it struck him that no matter he did with Reichwald would work rather well.
From first pay attention, the album presents itself as a worthy addition to any membership scene — a way solely aided by the fantastical, escapist lyrics of glittering tracks like “Rainbow” (“Take the rainbow street / Put the world on maintain / For a second”).
“Once we had simply began making these songs, we had been simply fairly enthusiastic about performing it,” Reichwald mentioned. “This document is extra visceral,” Tokdemir agreed, including that it was the kind of music folks wish to dance to.
As a result of restrictions on gatherings introduced on by the pandemic, nonetheless, the chance to premiere the brand new tracks as they beg to be premiered — to a swarm of dancing folks in a darkish, crowded room — was misplaced to Reichwald and Tokdemir.
Therein lies the ultimate distinction that defines “Good Luck” — no less than for the present second.
“We [still] wished to do one thing that is really like an actual occasion in order that it looks like this occurred,” mentioned Reichwald. “As a result of in any other case, we’d simply launch the album [and] it might be some numbers on-line.”
The livestream live performance to launch the album, dubbed “YEAR0001’s bladee & Mechatok’s Excessive Good luck frequency #9DExperience Entice good luck TODAY!!! Sudden rewards (It Actually Works)” occurred on December 10.
The present featured the pair of their (digital) ingredient, as Tokdemir guided the viewers via seamless transitions in his DJing and Reichwald slouched across the stage in a protracted fur coat and darkish sun shades.
“Bladee seems like he walked out of the matrix,” one fan wrote within the stay occasion’s chat.
Whereas the present proved a memorable approach to cement the album’s arrival supplied the circumstance, the digital expertise of watching the pair gentle up a display was a far cry from the visceral actuality of a live performance or membership house. In direction of the start of the efficiency, the act of experiencing the club-ready music paired with the two-dimensional, digital house felt like watching a fish out of water. The present’s colourful and dynamic visuals, impressively projected throughout your complete room the duo carried out in, fell flat when considered via a laptop computer display.
Reichwald and Tokdemir carried out as they might for any present, with Tokdemir anchored to a neon-accented soundboard and Reichwald promenading unbothered throughout the stage as he sang, nevertheless it was apparent that the infectious vitality that comes from an in-person viewers was missing.
Because the present progressed, nonetheless, the effortlessly danceable tracks like “God” and “Into One” took over. Even sitting on a desk chair watching the present, it was unattainable to not wish to transfer to their saccharine beats.
The chat perform of the livestream, too, turned perpetually flooded with followers’ feedback, making a digital surrogate for the community-driven live performance expertise. By the point the duo had reached their final track, “Grace,” the vitality within the chat was palpable — creating the precise atmosphere and level of catharsis for the album that Reichwald and Tokdemir had envisioned. Even after the display went black and the 2 walked off the digital stage, the chat remained energetic for the subsequent 10 minutes, flooded with messages from Drainers and cementing “Good Luck”’s standing as an album that was capable of transcend the fast circumstance of the pandemic, simply as Reichwald and Tokdemir had been capable of when writing it.
When it comes to what’s subsequent for the artists, essentially the most they may say was that there’s so much to return. “It’s onerous to specify however undoubtedly plenty of stuff,” Tokdemir mentioned.
“[We] can’t cease working,” Reichwald added. “I feel subsequent 12 months shall be enjoyable and nice for music for each of us.”
—Employees author Sofia Andrade may be reached at email@example.com. Comply with her on Twitter @SofiaAndrade__.