It seems that despite his change in name from Ramadanman to Pearson Sound, David Kennedy has been working with much the same formula for some time now. Whether it’s “Work Them” or “Glut” as Ramadanman, “Stifle” or “Blanked” as Pearson Sound, it seems like Kennedy had worked out a comfortable palette of sounds on which to draw on – 808s, blasts of grimy bass, clipped vocals, hanging chords – and although nobody could argue about the power of these tracks on a dancefloor, it was obvious that some kind of change was badly needed, especially given how many of his peers (Untold, Pangaea, Cosmin TRG) have gone on to do such diverse things with such great success. Coming from a scene that prides itself on constantly thinking outside the box, it seemed odd that one of its progenitors would have remained at such an impasse. The recent “Untitled” was in interesting diversion, but it was clear that it wasn’t where Kennedy was heading next.
The three tracks that make up Kennedy’s return to Hessle Audio aren’t a total reinvention in the same way that Untold’s Change In A Dynamic Environment series was, but they do display the progression that his music so badly needed. Kennedy has obviously gone to great lengths to remove the key signifiers of his previous work (primarily the vocals and the emotionally ambiguous synths); these tracks are less stripped back than stripped out. It’s difficult to get a handle on “Clutch”; handclaps swerve in at right angles, the tone of the hi-hats are switched with every bar and glassy textures creep in unnoticed. What’s most noticeable is how little sense of scale there is – with practically no reverb your ears are directed with each dry snap and leaden clunk to the aural equivalent of the middle distance. Like A Made Up Sound’s “Take The Plunge” or Kowton’s “Jam01”, Kennedy obviously intends to be as jarring as possible, but while those are measured exercises in disruptive techno dynamics, “Clutch” seeks to purposefully baffle the signals between your brain and your feet to an even greater degree.
The two tracks that take up the B-Side are probably the most experimental things that Kennedy has done. Although the initial response is to see them as DJ tools, there’s a great deal more going on than in your average locked groove. Rather than the autofire assisted rhythms of his earlier works, the stop-start 130bpm “Underdog”, trades in tension, balancing its moments of earth-shaking bass with hammering kicks and even measures of electro-acoustic textures. “Piston” takes a similar approach, contrasting its angular hits with some downbeat keys caked in delay. It’s the one real concession to melody out of the three tracks, and he implements it with a new found maturity; in the past it felt like Kennedy’s attempts to break up his tracks with synth chord breakdowns were occasionally naive and structurally hamfisted, but these three tracks show that he is now confident enough to let those rhythms speak for themselves. Some may despair that he is becoming another dubstep producer edging slowly closer to techno, but on the strength of this EP, as transitional as it may be, Pearson Sound seems to becoming aligned with the grime indebted, choppy, fractious techno that producers like Kowton and A Made Up Sound are pushing – which is no bad thing.