Blackest Ever Black artist Pessimist has teamed up with Loop Faction for a beautifully layered tapestry of end-of-times melancholia under the guise of Boreal Massif. Their album, We All Have An Impact (Even Hippies Do), is delivered with a pertinent tonality which establishes and foreshadows the austere mood of this post-truth political epoch. Dubbed as “the brainchild for the next generation of new age music,” the work ponders ecological breakdown taking heed from the seminal works such as Urban Tribe’s The Collapse of Modern Culture on Mo’ Wax. Elsewhere the downtempo breaks, intelligent spatial patterns and trippy dubs evoke B12’s Electro Soma, Bristolian trip-hop and early Metalheadz DnB all amass a deteriorating landscape.
We caught up with them to find out more about the album and the ethos behind it.
Thanks for taking the time to speak to us. Firstly, can you tell us a bit about the inception of the project?
Kristian: Myself and Reuben both met many years ago whilst I was living in Cornwall for a while, Reuben’s from the north coast of Cornwall and I guess we met like 12 years ago. In the past we collaborated on different projects but we always toyed with the idea of doing something substantial together like an LP. At the end of the last year we were both in pretty good places in terms of the rate of music we were making so we decided now is the time to do this and here we are man!
How did the name Boreal Massif come to be?
Kristian: Every evening for a while I was reading this geographical encyclopaedia and both of these words stuck in my head. Me and Reu are both quite outdoors people plus we wanted the project to have something to say, hence the topic of climate change, so a geographical term was only natural right? The cherry on the top is, there’s bit of a play on the Massive and Fo Real (laughs), as well as being outdoors lads we have a love for urban music and culture.
On names, the LP title is a semantic signpost of the record’s message. Did you find it challenging to communicate the moral agency of such a clear theme into a meaningful musical narration?
Kristian: To be completely honest, not in any aspect was there a struggle to write this album. From day one we wanted to make something unique, something with some meaning and something beautiful. I think we managed to do that. Me personally, I was brought up by a stepdad (who is a proper hippy by the way) that wrote lyrics about all sorts of important issues such as climate change, anarchy, social injustice etc., so for me there’s nothing worrying or challenging about writing music that has a real and meaningful narrative.
Reuben: Yea it was completely natural and came together pretty easily didn’t it! For me the record has a spiritual vibe, as well as a heavy emphasis on technology meeting mother nature. It totally reflects the title.
I understand the creation of this record saw a return to nature with field recordings being an important means. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Kristian: Up until last year I was working in the Natural History TV industry composing music and doing general post-production work. In this time I had acquired some really high quality field recordings from all around the world, as well as recording myself. Reuben was travelling around Europe during the time we wrote the album too and also took some great field recordings. It’s nice to inject a bit of the real world into our electronic music rather than just work with purely abstract sounds such as synths and sound design type stuff, using actual recordings of actual living things is so refreshing and it sounds beautiful.
Reuben: Most of the album was written while I was on the road travelling around Spain and Portugal. As well as the field recordings I gathered, I was actually buying records and sampling them on my way, using a little portable turntable. A lot of the musical elements your hear on the LP come from obscure French, Spanish and Portuguese records bought in flea markets and second hand shops!
Over the past year in particular, the issue of climate change has been punctuated by a heightened sense of foreboding apocalypticism (which is certainly captured on the record). However, simultaneously there has been something of a heightened interest in the issue and a new sense of hope which is personified by Greta Thunberg and the recent Global Climate Strike. What are your thoughts on recent events and where do you think we are heading?
Kristian: God bless the next generation of kids. Our future is with them, they’re the ones who are really going to change things, or so I hope. If you look back at my generation and the generations before we’re not far from a load of pigs in a sty, so ignorant and living completely beyond our means. I’m by no means a spokesperson for climate change, but I think the more people that can shine a light on it, the better. People are becoming more aware of it and the people who are still ignorant to it just look like dated fools, but that said just look at the rise of fast fashion these days – people now have to carry a basket whilst buying clothes in a shop, they buy 20 items for £10, wear it, then chuck it in the bin maybe a week later. To me I find that completely mental. That is just one example of where we are living completely beyond our means. Everyone can change their habits but it’s really down to the big multinationals to change things, which is where things start to look much more depressing.
You’ve dubbed the album “the brainchild for the next generation of new age music.” Can you expand on this a bit more?
Kristian: I mean, this is a bit of a tongue and cheek statement. I don’t think myself and Reuben are arrogant enough to make such a big statement (we’ll leave comments like that to other I guess). That said, the album was very much influenced by new age music and Fourth World-esque stuff – I guess we wanted to get some of the style across but mixed up within some of our other stylistic influences.
The album is informed by a richly textured sonic palate; a first listen elicits a haunting syncopation of B12’s Electro Soma, trip-hop and Metalheadz DnB. What records were you listening to when you wrote this album, who were your biggest influences?
Reuben: Im a huge fan of the late Susumo Yokota, I was listening to a lot of his stuff while on my travels, working on the album. Also lots of Eno, old Apex Twin, other ambient music. Plus my usual dose of my favourite beat makers. Damu, Pete Rock, Madlib etc etc. the way these guys work with samples will always influence what I do.
Kristian: For me personally I was smashing that B12’s Electro Soma around that time. Lots of Future Sound Of London as usual, especially Life Forms & ISDN. But in all honesty, there are times where I’m so focussed on writing my own music, I don’t actually have the time for other music. I guess usually my influences are older records, I don’t like to listen to whats going on right now too much as I’m scared it might actually influence me to sound like other people that are around right now, as long as my music is unique and doesn’t sound like anyone else I’m super happy!
What is your favourite track on the album?
Kristian: For me I’d say either ‘Weather In August’ or ‘Somewhere In Galicia’, both for totally different reasons.
Reuben: These are probably my 2 favourites too! ‘Somewhere in Galicia’ was written while I was in, you guessed it Galicia, North West Spain, so it really takes me back to that beautiful part of the world.
Aesthetically the sleeve for the LP is striking. What is the story with that?
Reuben: Henry was an old family friend who taught my dad to paint when he first moved down to Cornwall in the late ’80s. Him and his wife who is still alive are life long dedicated artists, living off their land and painting, very true to their art! My dad has gathered a whole bunch of his works over the years and this one has always been one of my favourites. It’s been on his wall for many years so I have spent a lot of time looking at it! As well as this personal link, I think the artwork reflects the project very well. The trees, the building coming through in the background and the texture and ruggedness of this amazing piece of work!
In terms of new music who is on your radar at the moment?
Kristian: Right now I’m into things from all over but to mention a couple of really exciting artists right now I’d have to mention Sunun from Bristol, anything Amos Childs is a part of, I’m also really feeling a lot of the music coming out of New York at the moment from Brian Pineyro, J. Albert, Huerco S etc., also Anything from Dominic Fernow, also Low Jack, the Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement stuff is next level.
Reuben: I listen to lots of beats and hip hop as well as a wider range of styles. Go through phases really, I’ll become obsessed with a random genre or artist for a bit and then switch it up. Lee Scott, Jack Danz, Sniff, anything Blah Records really. Illiterate is one of my fave uk hip hop artists too. Amazing beatmaker and MC – we’ve done an album together which will be out at some point. Mr Slipz, all the Yogocop records guys. The Apex album by Ash The Author and Ted Debiase is on repeat for me at the minute, raw business! That ones on village live records, they have been putting out lots of nice music. In terms of US hip hop, Freddie Gibbs is a favourite of mine these days – his albums with Madlib are masterpieces! I’ve been listening to a lot of the band Earth too. Heavy droned out vibes, really excellent stuff. Of course always listening to my own stuff too, as well as Kris’ stuff. Wait to you hear what he’s got cooking, his unreleased music is madness!
Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to tackle climate change?
Kristian: I mean I’m not perfect, there are many things I need to change myself! What ever it is you do try and speak out, discussing things and also protesting is the only way things actually change. Yes we can all make changes ourselves like buying second-hand clothing, cutting down on our energy consumption etc., but if the big multinationals don’t change their act, all of this is just a drop in the water, so speak out and protest if needs be!
Reuben: Yea demanding change from the top, by backing and supporting things like the Extinction Rebellion movement! Also something individuals can do is greatly reduce or even cut out animal products. If everyone had a plant-based diet it would make a massive difference! Also cut out flying! I go away in my camper van to holiday, which although obviously isn’t pollution free, is better than flying and then hiring a car!
Any words to touring DJs and electronic artists unconcerned about their significant carbon footprint?
Kristian: This is such a difficult one. It’s like I’m here saying this and that about climate change but my carbon footprint is crazy in terms of the amount of flights I have to take a year, it makes me feel guilty man. I’d say try your best to take train’s to any gigs where it is reasonable. Im not playing god and I’m not judging people for how they wish to travel and ultimately everyone is trying to survive in this music game, but at the same time if you’re completely unaware of it then you’re bit of a dinosaur.
Reuben: To be completely unconcerned is a little bit worrying, as I’m sure some of these DJ’s have young children who are going to suffer in the future, due to the selfish actions of the human race!
Finally, provided the planet doesn’t cave in just yet. Do you have any future plans to perform together as Boreal Massif either in a live or DJ?
Kristian: Ultimately this is a production outfit, but if we were offered any shows I’d imagine we’d be more than happy to perform together!
Reuben: Watch this space!
We All Have An Impact is out October 11th on Pessimist Productions – pre-order here.