One of 2019's best albums considers the climate crisis through a deeply atmospheric trip-hop lens.
If that's a mild surprise, the means by which Pessimist and Loop Faction create such a strong body of work might be a shocker: We All Have An Impact is pretty much a trip-hop record. Such was the extent of the media's commodification of the genre in the '90s, helping to reframe an often turbulent sound as go-to dinner party music, artists have been understandably cautious to be seen anywhere near it. There were actually traces of the style on Pessimist & Karim Maas, most obviously on the thick atmosphere and woody drums of "A1," but We All Have An Impact more fully explores these moods.
I don't know if the artists would describe We All Have An Impact as a personal emotional response to the climate crisis, a vocalisation of the earth's suffering at our hands, or neither of these things. But the album absolutely feels like it's engaging with the concept. You'll hear the calls of birds and insects processed and majestically mixed with strings on "Dew Point Rising." A similar fusion is heard in "Deerhound," with guitar chords in harmony with the fauna. The crackle that coats the album admittedly isn't a fresh idea, but with nature so foregrounded here you might, like me, imagine ecological processes—like a root's journey through soil—being recorded and exaggerated.
On the flipside of the beauty and musical charisma the pair exhibit, the dread and heft of trip-hop and drum & bass elegantly lend themselves to the theme. There are too many excellent instances of this to mention them all, but the first two tracks, "We All Have An Impact" and "Low Forties," are convenient examples. The intoxicating union of acoustic drums, deep bass and enveloping chords, the stuff of enthusiastic hip-hop head nods, is made even more impressive by Pessimist and Loop Faction's control of the arrangements. There's a club music sensibility in the way parts are ordered and deployed, the drums returning as though attacking a dance floor. That you're left to consider both raving and global disaster is a key part of the album's allure.
The clever arrangements extend to We All Have An Impact's sequencing. When the record ends, you'll most likely remember its delicious drums and heady tenor, as heard in highlights like "Weather In August," "The Brink Of Extinction" and "Fast Fashion," but gentler moments play a large role in its success. "Dew Point Rising" and "Angel Of Dub," two tracks mentioned above, take some sting out of things early on, while the amassed anxiety is soothed at the end by "Somewhere In Galicia" and "Spacial Patterns." The former in particular is lovely, all cascading guitars and gentle pulses of joy. Are the artists offering hope as a coda? I don't know. But the suggestion of light in the darkest of situations is one of many reasons We All Have An Impact is one of the better electronic albums of this year.
Mon / 7 Oct 2019
01. We All Have An Impact
02. Low Forties
03. Dew Point Rising
04. Angel Of Dub
05. Weather In August
07. Black Rapids
08. The Brink Of Extinction
09. Fast Fashion
10. Artificial World (A Manmade Catastrophe)
11. Somewhere In Galicia
12. Spacial Patterns