Pessimist/with support from: Anunaku/Bengal Sound/Cold Light/Drone/Nkisi/Slikback
“We are like soccer fans in front of a TV screen at home, shouting and jumping from our seats, in a superstitious belief that this will somehow influence the outcome” – Slavoj Žižek
HyperNormalisation, the entropic acceptance and false belief in a clearly broken polity and the myths that underpin it, is a concept originally coined by anthropologist Alexei Yurchak in his 2005 book on the collapse of Soviet communism, ‘Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More: The Last Soviet Generation’ (Princeton University Press). The term was adopted in 2016 by British filmmaker Adam Curtis for his documentary of the same name, the trailer for which declares: “We live in a world where the powerful deceive us. We know they lie, they know we know they lie, they don’t care. We say we care, but we do nothing. And nothing ever changes. It’s normal. Welcome to the post-truth world”.
Over the course of the past 12-months, HyperNormalisation and its handlers have been slowly chipping away at our collective public consciousness on climate change. The rise of Extinction Rebellion mimics our sea levels. The melting hearts of silver surfers under pressure from autistic Swedish activists and striking schoolchildren imitate our ice caps. The vociferous bullying of climate change deniers echo the ominous crash of icebergs collapsing into our seas. Pensioners begin to glue themselves to inanimate objects in protest. As Žižek succinctly observes in his recent piece for The Independent: “Yes, it is a climate crisis. And your tiny human efforts have never seemed so meagre”.
Žižek identifies five HyperNormal strategies to distract us from the impending dread of ecological armageddon in this Society Of The Spectacle: ignorance will save us (the post-situationist meme: Nature, it’ll grow back); science and technology will save us; the market will save us; recycling will save us; regressive localism will save us. The latter plays perfectly into the HyperNormal objective of project divide and conquer, and it is this alone that has driven the emerging narratives throughout XR’s October Actions. Criticisms have duly fallen on XR like acid rain in an Indian summer: too middle class; too white; too old; too young; too autistic; too entitled; too deluded; too crusty; too radical.
As the core movement itself splinters in frustration, Canning Town becomes Gotham City, as rogue protestors in fine garments are pulled from the roof of a tube train and summarily kicked and beaten by an angry mob that’s just trying to get to work to feed their children in compliance with very system that oppresses them. This isn’t a comic, it’s a graphic novel. Rumours that Alan Moore has been approached by Dominic Cummings to script November and December cannot be confirmed at the time of going to press. Meanwhile, back at the plot, unsurprisingly Žižek’s proffered solution for an end to the global blame game is a worldwide agency to coordinate the necessary measures to save us, bringing us back full circle to a possible future communist international.
Following nine days of increasing repression by the Met, over a thousand XR activists languished in police custody as a result of Section 14 powers, amongst them Green Party leaders, Jonathan Bartley and Ellie Chowns, and eco-activist/journalist, George Monbiot. Met strategy had began in earnest with pre-demonstration arrests arguably on a par with the Orwellian concept of thoughtcrime: unspoken beliefs and doubts that contradict the tenets of the ruling hegemony:
“They took eighty-two laws/Through eighty-two doors/And they didn’t halt the pull/Till the cells were all full” – ‘Julie’s Been Working For The Drug Squad’, The Clash
Monbiot justified himself thus: “I feel we’ve got to make as much of a stand as we possibly can to prevent ecocide. Business as usual, politics as usual – that is ecocide. It’s the destruction of conditions that make life possible on this earth. I’m standing up against that and I’m proud to be arrested for that cause.”
Standing shoulder to shoulder with the celebrity arrests stood pensioners, the disabled, the young, nurses carrying their offspring, cyclists, even. Footage has emerged of heavy handed Met tactics that have seen bicycles ripped from their riders and wheelchairs confiscated from the disabled. On Friday the legal environment charity Plan B wrote to the Met commissioner citing what it claimed were ‘numerous instances of human rights violations’ by the police. Allegations included: “armed police, carrying rifles, stopping members of XR and ordering them to put their hands in the air; a plain clothes police officer attempting to incite violence in the crowd; arbitrary and aggressive use of stop and search powers; and officers forcefully removing tents without checking whether children or others were inside”. London Mayor Sadiq Khan took to Twitter on Tuesday evening to deny responsibility for the decision to introduce the deployment of Section 14 of the 1986 Public Order Act, created under Margaret Thatcher in the aftermath of waves of industrial unrest in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including the miners’ strike. “This draconian decision is a disgraceful suppression of our human rights,” Asad Rehman, head of War On Want stated, “but sadly it hasn’t happened overnight: from anti-fracking protesters to protesters against the arms trade to anti-racist campaigners, and of course to climate protesters, people are being consistently labelled as domestic extremists”.
The soundtrack to what promises to be a looming winter of discontent has been ramping up menacingly over the autumn following an unreasonably sublime summer. In a year dominated by incredible 45s, 10″ dub-plates, 12″s and EPs, resonant long players have been relatively thinner on the ground. With the bar being set at a challenging uber-high early doors by Ossia‘s cavernous ‘Devil’s Dance’ (Blackest Ever Black), we had to wait until June for a challenger, in the form of Pessimist & Karim Maas smouldering self-titled dystopian collaboration.
This debut long player on Pessimist’s own Pessimist Productions proved to be a slow burner. Initially out of step with the fleeting heat of early June, it is a record that has grown in stature accordingly. Refreshingly out of step with pretty much everything that surrounds it in the contemporary electronic genre pool, it’s practically impossible to pin down with either common or garden cliches. Pessimist (aka Kristian Jabs) has been making music for the best part of the last decade. We first stumbled across him in the dark whilst grubbing about in the margins as a member of Drum & Bass noire horde, UVB-76. A selection of previous outings for the likes of Ingredients, Cylon, CX Digital, Samurai Music, A14 and the aforementioned UVB-76 have been collected on the compilation ‘Pessimist Discography 2011-2016′ (Pessimist Productions) for anyone looking to fill the gaps. With the arrival of the second album in a year from the label, in the shape of Boreal Massif‘s ‘We All Have An Impact’ (Pessimist Productions), another collaborative creation, this time from Pessimist alongside Loop Faction, we felt the time had arrived to find out more:
trakMARX – 2019 has been a stellar year for Pessimist Productions. How’s it looking from where you’re sitting?
Pessimist: Thanks, man. From where I’m sitting, I’m just happy to be putting out exactly what I want. The Pessimist Productions thing was never meant to be about being a ‘label’ label. Kiran who runs Blackest Ever Black one day said to me: “how about you set up your own thing?” So we just did it without hesitation. I’ve been releasing music for basically 10-years now, and in that time one thing I’ve learnt is to trust your own vision, or at least surround yourself with people that GENUINELY believe in you, not for the hype, but for your vision, style and talent. That’s what I’ve done for a little while now, and it’s allowed me to be fully creative and do exactly what I want to do. So, from where I’m sitting, I’m just blessed to do exactly what I want, when I want, and make a living from it. I’m vibing!
trakMARX – Two collaborations on the trot: does this signify a game-plan for the label, moving forwards?
Pessimist: Nah man, there’s no ‘this is what my label is about’, the only thing is: it’s just music that I write, whether that be with friends of mine, other producers, or just me on my ones!
trakMARX – A No Fuss label? Could you expand on that?
Pessimist: No fuss, as in there is no grandeur concept behind the label, not to say that there is anything wrong with having a concept, but I often find it a bit corny. Its like just put out some music, and stop talking about some irrelevant shit. Me, as a person, I’m only interested in writing my music. I’m not a huge fan of performing; I’m not a huge fan of DJ’ing; I’m quite often not even huge on listening to music whilst I’m in writing mode, so I guess I’m no fuss in terms of I just want to create some music and get it out there for people to hear, no matter the style or whether I think it’s something that will be successful or not. It’s my vision, and that’s it.
trakMARX – The Karim Maas collaboration was a real slow burner here in the tMx bunker, it just keeps growing in stature to these ears. It’s a difficult record to define, in terms of genre. Are the implications of genre tags/versatility important to you?
Pessimist: At the end of the day people want to call something, ‘something’. I haven’t released an actual Drum & Bass track since my debut album in 2017, yet apparently every release I’ve done since then is Drum & Bass, haha. For a while now, I’ve been operating between ‘Genres’, and that’s not on purpose, it’s just me wanting to create music that is unique. If people then want to emulate that, and then it starts getting called a certain name, then that’s just the way it goes, people naturally name things. So, I don’t think it matters too much, it’s nothing to worry about, as long as you are actually someone who is creative and individual enough to break out of these silly names/tags. Calling this or that style cool in the moment is all bullshit. All these people that used to sneer with snobbery at Drum & Bass/Jungle because they thought they were on a higher level listening to 4×4 Techno/House are now the ones raving to Modern Jungle (which isn’t as good as old Jungle, by the way, haha) in some trendy festival in Europe. It cracks me up, man!
trakMARX – The organic drum sounds rolling through both records this year would appear to be dredging up the antiquated term ‘trip hop’, particularly with regard to the Boreal Massif album. What are your thoughts around this kind of word association?
Pessimist: It’s fine by me. I mean it’s obviously not Trip-Hop, but I completely get where people are coming from there. I’m from Bristol, my family is from Bristol, my Mum’s claim to fame is she used to go down to the Dug Out in Bristol and knew a few of the Wild Bunch, which obviously became to be Massive Attack. So, in a way, it makes me proud to be associated with something that is heavily linked to Bristol like Trip-Hop.
trakMARX – Considering the gravity of its subject, I had expected ‘We All Have An Impact’ to have been the darker of the two records, yet it’s brighter, both in appearance and sound. Is this significant?
Pessimist: Yeah, quite a few people have said that. I think it’s an album to offer hope, though. It’s not just like ‘ah mate, we’ve fucked the planet, let’s give up and all get smacked up’. It’s just shining a light on the fact that if we all shout about it enough, maybe the big multinationals might actually be forced to change their act. Also, the next generation of kids are being brought up from a young age with a lot more knowledge of climate change. Surely, as time goes by, the way we’ve been living will be looked back at as completely mental (which is already happening, to be fair). I think the Boreal Massif album reflects this.
trakMARX – The introduction of guitars and other expressive textures signal a departure of sorts, are these domains you foresee exploring further in time?
Pessimist: As mentioned in the first question, now I have my own label, I feel completely and 100%-free to write whatever I want. For years and years I was making moody and dark music, which is totally cool, but I almost fobbed off the chance of writing lighter music. It’s weird, because lately I’ve actually been writing the sort of music I’d listen to at home. I can’t sit at home and listen to heavy and dark music too much. I wanted to move away a bit from doing the dark stuff with these signature bass drones that everyone keeps going on about. It’s like, I’m not a one dimensional producer, there’s a million other things I’m capable of. I was working in the TV industry composing music for three years, and if there’s one thing you need to be good at to survive in that industry, it’s you have to be flexible and able to write in all styles!
trakMARX – Can you give us a little insight in to the collaborative process of each record? Did your approach vary from project to project?
Pessimist: The process was very similar on both records, actually. The majority of it worked as either Reuben or Coop sending over some hand picked samples, maybe a loop of a few elements, and then I would add to it and generally arrange the tracks. I guess it worked well this way, as both Reuben & Coop are more hardware focussed. They have very unique workflows to create their music, so it suited them doing their thing first, and then me completing the tracks. Plus, my personal favourite thing to do when it comes to making music is arranging it, you don’t need many elements doing anything complicated. To create great tracks, it’s very often all about how you arrange those parts, and get the most out of what you have (at least, that is my philosophy).
trakMARX – Given the constant evolution of your signature sound, I’m hearing a gulf opening up between your current material and the Blackest Ever Black S/T. I’m sensing a gradual shift away from some of the rounder aspects of your sound on that album?
Pessimist: Yeah, I think it’s a natural progression. I’m not TRYING to change or anything, it’s just that I have a very broad taste and love for music. I love making music, man, so I want to make different types of music. I don’t want to be this guy that makes a particular style of music, then goes to clubs on the weekend to DJ that particular style, it’s depressing, man. Maybe there is a slight timbre that glues all of my music together, no matter the style, but that said I’m fully committed to trying out different things. Just wait until next year, there’s some new stuff I have been working on under a new name that is TOTALLY different to anything I’ve done before.
trakMARX – And, finally . . . following your socials, it’s apparent that you are in possession of a solid social conscience. ‘We All Have An Impact’ is an unambiguous statement at a timely juncture, especially in light of current authoritarian clampdowns on Extinction Rebellion activists prior to the current round of actions. Are we on the cusp of a generational rebellion that can express itself critically through largely instrumental art?
Pessimist: I definitely think so, in terms of people in general are on this rebellion vibe right now. Not just climate change, look at who’s currently in power around the world. It’s almost as if we’ve woken up in a sitcom, watching Trump & Boris in the positions they are in, talking the shit they’re talking. Although Trump is extremely funny, in a satirical sense, it’s extremely frightening that a guy like that can come to power. Same for Boris Johnson, too. In terms of electronic music, I guess it would be nice to see more people actually representing their views through their music (not that music HAS to be politicised). That’s one thing I’ve found in recent years with electronic music, it’s pretty bland at times. Often, it’s just about people taking drugs at a club, or having sex in a club. There’s more to life than hedonism. That said, I completely support that, but there are other issues that need to be spoken about that are worth fighting for. Also, this whole obsession with looking the coolest on social media is a joke, and leads musicians to think they’re better than they are. I don’t think some of these artists realise that if they spent more time on their music maybe more people would actually care about, buy, or take interest in their music, rather than a picture of them wearing a hoodie, hahaha.
Anunaku – ‘Whities 024′ (Whities): One of the 12″s of 2019, up there with Y U QT, Porter Brook, Kids C Ghosts and Al Wootton. On a tip with Wootton’s ‘Body Healthy’ and ‘Selah’, lead cut ‘Temples’ is worth the admission alone:
Bengal Sound – ‘Young Skeleton’/’Coroners” (Innamind): Rapid follow-up to the simply stunning ‘Short Stay’/’Never Mind’ (Bandalu), Bengal Sound is a cornerstone of everything fine currently being built in the city of Bristol. Endlessly inventive, sumptuously subtle, intelligent nodding for the critical thinker:
Sunun – ‘CL003′ (Cold Light): 5-track EP from Sunun pushes the envelope straight through the letterbox of possibility. We weren’t that convinced by the ‘Ooid’ EP (Bokeh Versions), but the jazzed-up bass notes of ‘Away’ here send us somewhere totally cosmic from the get-go. All five cuts drip with stratospheric pressure under heavy manners. Step up to the dub plate time, Sunun has arrived.
V/A – ‘CL002′ (Cold Light): 4-track EP featuring BirthMark, WithDrawn, Sunun, VMO$ and Boofy: sultry late night/early morning vibes from the Cold Light collective. Beyond Manonmars rhyming from BirthMark and WithDrawn heralding a new dawn for British post-everything hip hop; further sonic adventurism at the edge of the outer reaches from Sunun; alongside standard uncategorised, mangled R&B from VMO$ and Boofy. Mandatory.
Both EPs available here:
Drone – ‘Horror’ (Sector 7 Sounds): Follow up to ‘Saphire’ has been building like a volcano waiting to explode on preorder for what seems like an eternity. It’s finally erupted, spewing lava all over the lowlands:
Nkisi – ‘Destruction Of Power’ (Collapsing Market): Eminently darker than her ‘7 Directions’ (UIQ) long player from January, ‘Destruction Of Power’ comes cassette-bound and heat-sealed in yet another desirable artefact from the always intriguing Collapsing Market:
Slikback – ‘Lasakaneka’/‘Tomo’ (Hakuna Kulala): Killer compendium of two previous EPs (plus three bonus tracks) from Nairobi, Kenya’s Slikback. Blending East African hip-hop and Congolese rhythms, with nods to US trap and footwork, Slikback is rightly venerated from Kampala to Berlin. This is the place to begin. Mastered and cut by Rashad Becker at D&M Berlin and pressed up in 500-pieces on purple wax, available via Boomkat: