Review Summary: A brief but trancey experience inside a lost addict's mind.
It's been nearly two years since the release of the highly anticipated "E" by Drain Gang member Ecco2K
, and to this day it's still as abstract and interesting as when I had my first peek all those months ago. With each listen, I seemed to learn more about the illusive figure and their intentions that were expressed in this album. I'll admit, I was initially hesitant to check out music from the quiet kid of the group, Ecco2K. I'm not sure what put me off at first, perhaps it had been the abstract and confusing posts from the "aloegarten" instagram account, or just the name of the album, an estimated symbol that was read as "E". I had friends that were quite engrossed in the collective Drain Gang, similar to how I was, but none of them shared the fascination I had with Ecco2K.
My first exposure to 2K's music was the feature verse on the song "Obedient" from labelmate Bladee's "Red Light" album. It was the first song I had heard from anyone in Drain Gang, excluding Yung Lean whom I had been a fan of for years at this point. I had no idea that the guy who did the feature vocals on Highway Patrol and Hocus Pocus could make a song like this, a song which was hiding an angelic voice that was disguised as a simple "feature". From this point, I knew that 2K was a talent, one that Bladee had been hiding behind his back in preparation to reveal to the public at some point.
Ecco2K's unique and abstract lyricism combined with the pure voice that is possessed by the artist was truly different for the time. 2K had not used autotune as a crutch similar to Bladee or often compared Nav. That verse on "Obedient" serves as a transition, from the low, husky voice that I would discover from the artist on Bladee albums such as "Gluee" and "Eversince" to a pure, higher, breathier and free voice, the voice that Ecco2K was truly meant to show off to whoever would listen. In that case, that's me. This was the moment that I knew that Ecco2K was different than anyone in Drain Gang or even Sadboys. Despite my love for Yung Lean and his genre and sound bleeding, Ecco2K was clearly the more creative individual.
Just before "E" surprise dropped in 2019, Drain Gang released a collab album titled "Trash Island", and in my (popular) opinion, Ecco2K was the shining star of that LP, the one who lifted it to a new level of "cloud rap".
I feel like out of those songs, one doesn't get talked about nearly enough. "You Lose", the closer was a showcase of Ecco2K's voice being pushed to its highest register, while still sounding smooth and hell, even holy.
After 2 months of "Trash Island", Ecco2K surprise dropped a masterpiece of an album, with highlights and replay value that stretched through the roof, which is something that very few artists have been able to achieve in my book. Like I mentioned earlier, with every listen of Ecco2K's "E", I found something new in the music. Perhaps a reference of some sort? A unique production bump? Also, learning the lyrics of an album is pretty much inevitable if I indulge myself into an album far enough. 2K's lyrics brought a whole new meaning to the project. I struggle to hold back tears as I go through some of these songs, seeing how relatable they can be and how they play into, well my life and environment.
My iTunes reported that "E" was my most listened to album by a rap artist in 2020. I feel like it might still carry that achievement into 2021 because I know I've listened to it a lot more since then. I feel like this is an album which simply resides with me, I can see myself reflecting on my youth years from now and thinking how essential this album was to me. I'll think about the first time I heard it, the first time I listened to Peroxide (my personal favorite song from the album), etc. Oh, and of course I'll remember how this album and the rest of Ecco's Swedish and Thai friends got me through the Coronavirus pandemic.
Anyways, enough about me. What makes Ecco2K's "E" so good? Well, besides the obvious replay value, which is something that I believe will never run out for me, ever. This album truly is an experience, yet it never appears to be overbearing. Starting with the music, I'll discuss the opener song which happens to be the longest song which is around four minutes, AAA Powerline. Produced by pop music master Yves Tumor (whom is credited as "Shanti" on this album), the production is dreamy yet hard hitting. This is honestly the perfect opening song in my eyes. Despite the long runtime and repetitiveness, I truly wish this song was longer. "Zip-tied up can't move my arms" creates such tragic and painful imagery, as with the rest of the album.
The second song, produced by Yung Gud titled "Peroxide" is a masterpiece, no other way to put it. It starts out as an atmospheric cloud that slowly builds up into a shiny trap-infused spark of a noise. The song continues to build, however. With string plucks placed around the mix, it really gives off a feeling of motion which is boosted even further by the whistling music video. When Ecco's vocals finally kicked in for the first time, I knew that this wasn't going to be like any album I had ever listened to anymore. Ecco's abstractness that is expressed through lyrics is perhaps the strongest suit in this entire album. In this song, the frustrations and emotions that Ecco2K faced as a black person in a white area of Sweden really turn up to the central point of the song and punch through with pure raw emotions. One sentence 2K is confused and confrontational, then thoughtful, which leads to being frightened, then finally angry with the community and world. The limitations of 2K's voice and delivery which still hold a very catchy and grabbing melody is what makes this track stand out so much. The song does fade out into another pit of ambience halfway through, only for it to come and kick in stronger on the second wave.
The third song on the album is titled "Fragile" and once again is produced by Gud. It's a smooth yet rough ballad about being vulnerable and weak from drugs. The lyrics all tie to one theme that shows up pretty often through the album, and that's Ecco2K's dependence on ketamine.
The interlude "Bliss Fields" expands on this topic, being a spoken word piece where Ecco describes the feeling of disassociating with reality and the human body while being on ketamine. Directly following the interlude, we dive into a song which is also produced by Shanti, "Fruit Bleed Juice". It is short but still elaborates on its idea very well while having some pretty memorable misheard lyrics (such as, my jizz is sweet, it tastes like nectar).
"Cc" is another one of the huge highlights in my opinion, it truly blends what a song can truly be and showcases the artist at the most odd places by far. The background ambience and silence that combines with the Whitearmor production and glitches, topped with a usual dose of abstract Ecco lyricism is what really sets this song over the edge for me; it's brilliant. 2K once again describes how reality and everything surrounding it can be bent at free will, along with explaining how energy is eternal is honestly so mind grabbing and interesting.
"Calcium" is one of the most streamed songs off the album and it really justifies that. The UK-Bass vibe of the instrumental sets the track up to be ambitious and Ecco's sing-rapping really completes it. The verse contains lines that imply loneliness and extreme dependence on drugs along with the repeated refrain of "double k crystals kiss my (nuts, lol) nose". It honestly sounds like such a unique way to describe doing ketamine that I'm sure only Ecco could pull off. The song ends with the same lines from "Bliss Fields" being repeated, further exposing the meaning if it wasn't obvious enough at this point. It's the physical and mental feeling of truly being on K.
Any user of any drug, ever can confirm that the risk of an overdose or a withdrawal is common. That's the idea that is expressed in the song "Sugar and Diesel". Ecco saying "I can stop whenever I want" followed by "more more, gotta have it" is honestly so frightening and concerning, all while being such an honest expression. The instrumental of "Don't Ask!" possibly could become repetitive or annoying to somebody, but luckily I am not that somebody. I think that the song sounds rich in itself, it sounds very vacant and large.
"Security!" makes a strong point in its runtime on why it should be considered my favorite Ecco song, the overpowering synths grossly clash in with everything else in the most empowering way ever; it just elevates me to a whole 'nother level of Draining that I didn't even know I could accomplish. Besides "Peroxide", I feel like this might be the best written song on the LP. The lyrics which revolve around drugs, dysmorphia, paranoia and the feeling of never being enough strike through outstandingly.
"Time" is such a trancing track that just as the title suggests, is probably made for the listener to finally lose track of all time and order. You really feel for 2K in this last stretch, hearing the artist repeat messages of waking up and moving away from something concealing, which moves into the crushing "Blue Eyes" is once again, very surreal and abstract. The random synths that fade in at the beginning only for them to be compressed to the ground by the urgent wailing of Ecco's voice that seems to be directed straight at the listener is emotionally draining. "All my friends got blue eyes" is a confusing line to start with but once again by dissecting the song you can obviously see what it's trying to symbolize, especially as 2K makes sure to enunciate "got" instead of "have". It's saddening having to hear Ecco rant about guilt and resentment towards friends for being born presumably white and "getting blue eyes" and light skin at birth. It always gets me thinking about the extreme self reflection about Ecco's early life of being dark in Sweden, which truly is the last cord of this LP.
If "Blue Eyes" was the "bitchy, death rant" of the album, then the hidden closer "Life After Life" truly serves as the good ending and happy afterlife of said album. I truly love this song and I wish that it was on streaming services because its one of the most honest songs from the entire collective of Drain Gang. It shows and symbolizes that there is still hope for the lost soul who has been narrating this whole album, aka Ecco, giving the peace that was truly needed to find to finally accept everything. The album closes with the lines from "Bliss Fields", but with a different meaning. It doesn't represent breaking apart from drug usage, instead it's associated with finding a happy and blissful afterlife, which is all that I wish for Ecco at this point.
Even after beating all of these tracks up, lyric for lyric, I feel like there is so much that I've missed, whether it be why I love and relate to it so much. But, I don't want to be here all day.
I've been completely enormed and infatuated with the artist behind the "E" logo and even now, I'm still unraveling its hidden secrets and meanings in private.
While being a huge fan of "E", I do not believe that it's a concept album of any sort, especially not one about being on ketamine. I'd describe it as an album that's just a whole out of body experience, as it discusses topics of disassociating, dysmorphia, and the feeling of not being accepted based on multiple reasons that are often uncontrollable. Anyways if you couldn't tell, Ecco2K's "E" is a masterpiece.