NPR logo Review: Pearson Sound, 'Pearson Sound'

Review: Pearson Sound, 'Pearson Sound'

Pearson Sound, Pearson Sound
Courtesy of the artist

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David Kennedy, the London-based producer behind Pearson Sound, has been at the vanguard of British electronic music since his first singles (under another alias, Ramadanman) back in 2006. He's had a productive and popular career to date, a dozen singles credited to Pearson Sound and another dozen as Ramadanman, and he even bested the likes of James Blake and Actress in a 2010 list at Little White Earbuds. But it's nearly a decade into his music career, and only now is Kennedy settling on his first full-length album.

For those who've followed Kennedy's work, "settling" hasn't been his specialty; he's a restless character. He came up as a dubstep producer alongside Mala, Coki and Burial, but before long began to embrace the rumbles of bass emanating beyond South London — most notably the sound of Chicago footwork. Kennedy's 2011 Fabriclive mix (credited to both Ramadanman and Pearson Sound) doubled as an overview of bass music in the new decade, ranging from dubstep escapees Burial, Pinch and Mala to the tech-house of Julio Bashmore and darker techno tones of Levon Vincent. A recent single, "Raindrops," was iridescent and ambient.

But for his debut, there's a sense of patience to Pearson Sound's productions; of not rushing toward the next new thing, but instead carefully considering each and every sound, be it thunderous or minute. (Listen to "Asphalt Sparkle" without the right speaker set-up, though, and the earth-moving bass might sound downright slight.) Pearson gets a tone so deep and resonant that it's like a seismic event beneath the otherwise anthemic synth chords, making the entire track wobble like Jello. "Crank Call" literally vibrates, but with smaller sounds, the way a phone might buzz across a tabletop. Listen more closely, and beneath the hi-hats and ghostly pads, there's more ringing, as well as a heavy breather at the other end of the line.

No matter the tempo, Pearson Sound thrills. "Glass Eye" slots into the modern bass canon, its rumbling hits offset by splashes of cymbals, tricky drum programming and snares that wobble like spinning plates. But Kennedy is just as effective making dark, stomach-churning ambient sounds, the way he does in "Gristle." The exotic hand percussion of "Six Congas" sounds at once bright and body-moving, but with a foreboding undercurrent. In spite of its title, the beat of "Rubber Tree" emits sparks like metal against metal before sliding into feedback. It's a noisy yet masterful end to a debut nearly a decade in the making.

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