Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Pearson Sound - "Pearson Sound"

David Kennedy has been around for some time now. Since first emerging as Ramadanman in 2006, he’s co-founded the meticulously curated Hessle Audio label along with Ben UFO and Pangaea, and built a reputation as one of the best DJs on the circuit. The last few years have seen him releasing a series of club-ready EPs under the Pearson Sound banner, which brings us to his self-titled debut album, almost ten years into his career. Pearson Sound fits into Kennedy’s usual percussion-heavy manner, but otherwise is difficult to pigeonhole in terms of genre. It’s difficult to tell where these tracks are destined for, but overall it feels like a self-conscious move towards more of a home-listening environment.

Kennedy has spoken about wanting to keep things concise, but even with shorter track lengths, many of these pieces fail to remain interesting throughout their duration. The album’s main failing is really a lack of momentum or any urgency. ‘Russet’ is the worst offender, an anonymous track with little to recommend itself. Even Kennedy’s immense talent for rhythmic invention seems worryingly absent. This isn’t the case elsewhere – see the jackhammer drums of ‘Asphalt Sparkle’ that sound like splitting open a vat of ball bearings – but for an album that relies so heavily on percussion, there’s not a whole lot of interest going on. It rarely feels like top drawer Pearson Sound.

In terms of pure sound design, the album is more of a success. We get tracks like ‘Glass Eye’, with its deep bass pulses surrounded by spitting percussion, and later on a section that sounds like monastic chanting. ‘Gristle’ begins with coarse, rasping textures, and wouldn’t sound out of place soundtracking a John Carpenter movie. Ultimately though, there’s no real direction to either of these pieces, and this sense of missed opportunities is a recurring theme throughout the album.

Thankfully, there is a clutch of redeeming gems to be found here, and on the whole it’s the more up-tempo tracks that fare the best. ‘Swill’ provides the album’s first genuine shock, much needed after a tepid opening run. It’s restless, constantly shifting, never content to rest on one idea for too long. It opens aggressively, with clanging junkyard drums, before pulling back for a while and then lurching into the thicket again. ‘Rubber Tree’ is a very welcome closer, harnessing and directing the energy levels of ‘Swill’ and turning it into something resembling Four Tet’s club focused Pyramid album.

Both of these tracks manage to wring some melody out of the percussion battery, but nothing on the level of, say, the Starburst EP. ‘Headless’ is the exception to this. Coming at the end of a dense, humid mid-section, its main motif – a startling processed vocal in the vein of Holly Herndon or Oneohtrix Point Never – has a really visceral impact that’s largely absent from the rest of the album, and has you wishing for more.

Taken together, these three tracks show much more purpose and invention than any of the other offerings, and make this album a worthwhile listen. Ultimately though, there’s too few ideas on show to sustain a full LP, and most of those which do engage are leant on too heavily. A minor disappointment.

Highlights: Swill; Headless; Rubber Tree

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