The 10 Best UK Trip-Hop Tracks According To Soft Boi (AKA Pessimist)

UK drum & bass innovator, Pessimist, teases the laid-back sonic direction of his new Soft Boi moniker with a selection of enchanting UK trip-hop tracks.

8 min
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Jul 16, 2020
Kristian Jabs & Cameron Holbrook

Hailing from Bristol, DJ-producer Kristian Jabs (AKA Pessimist) has always had a knack for shaking it up behind the decks and hitting you with the unexpected. For the past ten years, Jabs’s modern and brooding techno-drum & bass fusions have been gratifying dancefloors with vaporous and sultry energy that’s all his own.

For his first release of 2020, we see Jabs go in a completely different direction to his previous releases with the introduction of his new moniker, Soft Boi, and the release of the project’s debut album, So Nice. Inspired by neo-soul, leftfield hip-hop, and Brazilian music (his stepfamily hails from Rio), the record is full of slo-mo club rollers, iridescent synths, and personal musings from Jabs who sings on themes of insecurity, dating, online frustrations, and isolation. The LP features some undeniable trip-hop influences, no doubt a result of growing up in the late ’80s and early ’90s in Bristol — home to many of the genre’s most celebrated originators.

To celebrate the new Soft Boi moniker and his latest album, Jabs has handed over his ten favourite UK trip-hop inspired tracks and written about each one.

Check out Soft Boi’s debut album ‘So Nice’ via Beatport here.
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Tricky – Hell Is Round The Corner [4th & Broadway]

I couldn’t put together a list of trip-hop tracks without a track from Tricky. Yes, it is a very famous track, maybe not a diggers track, but there’s always a reason why certain tracks become anthems and are so recognisable that it’s down to great Songwriting. Tricky is a hero to me, a real humble guy and a true artist, he represents everything that’s great about Bristol, and he also speaks out about everything that’s shit about Bristol, I love his honesty!

Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy [Circa Records]

Another anthem, a true classic, like Tricky, couldn’t leave this track out of the list. The tune represents a bunch of kids from Bristol who started out as The Wild Bunch with their sound-system and went on to make the album Blue Lines as Massive Attack, which put Bristol on the main stage a while. I love this track and always will, has a genuinely nostalgic place in my heart.

DJ Cam – Dieu Reconnaitra Les Siens [Street Jazz Records]

I love the first section of this track; it reminds me of some of my favourite 92-94 jungle tracks but slowed down to a more funky tempo. There’s so much good music from DJ Cam out there, and to be honest, I’m not really a track by track guy. I love to listen to albums in full, but if I had to pick one track, it would be this one.

Boards Of Canada – Hi Scores [Skam Records]

I’m not sure if you’d call this trip-hop, in a way I’m not even sure what trip-hop is, but I’d certainly say this track much like a lot of Boards Of Canada is heavily hip-hop influenced. It’s certainly leftfield and different for its time, so I don’t care, let’s call it trip-hop. I love the Hi Scores EP that this is taken from. Each track is fantastic. This one makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and it’s a stunning track!

Howie B – Cook For You [Pussyfoot Records]

I love Howie B and Music For Babies has become one of my favourite albums of all time. This isn’t from that album, but I think this represents my idea of what trip-hop is, to the fullest. It’s lie-on-your-back-and-gaze-whilst-you-trip-hard music for me. Big up Howie!

DJ Food – Inosan [Ninja Tune]

This is something I’d listen to while walking home on the streets late at night around Bristol. It’s the perfect backdrop for navigating through pissy alleyways, flickering street lamps, and ditched trolleys. It’s gutter. I love the rolling vibe to it, which makes it something perfect for being on the move.

Young Echo – Rocksteady [Young Echo]

If you don’t know already, Young Echo is a collective in Bristol that put on lots of interesting events around the city. Not only that, but they have also put out a few releases, including this fantastic debut album. This track is my personal favourite off the LP, but the whole thing is very impressive. It’s really worth digging into each member’s discographies too such as Amos Childs, Daniel Davies, and Joseph McGann. All in all, there’s some great stuff in there! Big up to the Young Echo lot for continuously pushing things forward in the city of Bristol.

Sunun – Untitled Lvls [Bokeh Versions]

Sunun is another great producer from the new crop of Bristol artists. She’s now actually part of the Young Echo collective, as mentioned before. This tune is a real gutter, in my opinion. Proper murky and released on Bristol’s Bokeh Versions, which has become one of my favourite labels of recent times. I’d recommend checking her whole discography out. Also, the music she has done with Bristol label Cold Light, who I have to mention. The imprint is doing a killer job at pushing this leftfield hip-hop, and trip-hop inspired sound here in Bristol.

Lucid Dreams – Totemism [The Stone Tapes]

Lucid Dreams is a side project of Jason Luxton (AKA Overlook). This was released on The Stone Tapes, an off-shoot label of UVB-76, which I help run along with the heads Vega & Gremlinz. Jason’s music is super-immersive, I think this project really reflects Jason’s taste in music and also film, of which he’s an addict. “Totemism” is my favourite of the bunch, but again, you really have to check the full release. It’s meant to be heard that way.

Boreal Massif – Low Forties [Pessimist Recordings]

Boreal Massif was a side project of mine where I joined forces with an old pal, Reuben Kramer. I’d say this was the title track of the album, to be honest, we even made a music video to go with it. I’m not going to talk too much about myself, so take a listen to the track (and the full album if you feel so inclined).

Grab the full Soft Boi UK trip-hop chart via Beatport here.

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