Abyss-like drum & bass and techno hybrids.
Still, for me it was the vestiges of Jabs's drum & bass influence that made Pessimist work so well. As tense as the mood became, the weight was usually offset by one of the crispy, almost acoustic breakbeats that Jabs has become so good at. The album's beats were a release valve. There are often drums on Pessimist & Karim Maas, but they've been slowed to a sinister crawl. More broadly, the record is an expansion and intensification of the dark, swirling vortex that Jabs and Cooper have both been moving towards, and it's sometimes too much.
Pessimist & Karim Maas could be filed alongside Raime, Ossia and King Midas Sound, contemporary acts who explore dread against the backdrop of UK soundsystem music. Whether it's through instrumentation, vocals or rhythms, though, each of those has deepened their darkness by contrasting it with light. This is something that, at its best, Pessimist & Karim Maas deftly achieves. The first track (they're all untitled) has a little Bristol trip-hop swagger. It's an ominous opening to an album, all noisy ambience and disturbed vocal snatches, but the drums are full of life. Track five is a stoned hip-hop instrumental with an intoxicating combination of crackle and chords. Track nine, a tightly coiled breakbeat with a glint in its eye, is conceivable as a mid-set cool-off by an adventurous techno DJ.
Plenty of Pessimist & Karim Maas achieves this sort of equilibrium. But at other times, as on tracks two, eight and 12, the album slips into an abyss of drones and anonymous gloom. Jabs and Cooper are curious artists who understandably want to push their sound to extremes. But in doing so they sometimes lose the humanity—however distant or distorted—suggested in their past work. This type of thing might not be a creative dead-end for the pair—it'll just take a lot more to stand out. There is plenty elsewhere on Pessimist & Karim Maas to suggest that their post-drum & bass work will continue to be rich and inventive, so long as they don't submit fully to the dark side.