Back in 2006/7, or perhaps even earlier, there was a low rumble bubbling up from London’s its subterranean levels. Nights like FWD>> at Plastic People were popular haunts for a new clubbing social circle, one that would congregate around dubstep and bass music, but would disregard most denominators for something more fluid, streaking towards a new dimension in club music – one more perceptible to an growing international internet audience where everything is allowed and expected. Tags like future bass, future garage and just plain old future tried to pin it down, but the fleeting nature of the artists and the music they made and played cast its net far and wide encountering elements of Techno, House and even Hardcore. In the end only one label would stick, post-dubstep and even then only as a vague catch-all explanation of the myriad of new, experimental, and forward thinking dance music coming out of the scene. Like any scene, it would breathe new life onto the dance floor and become a stepping stone to the next generation’s artistic voice. Characters like L-Vis 1990, Bok Bok, Blawan, Joy O, Ben UFO, Pangea and Pearson Sound would be exposed onto this platform,from which they would propel their own careers and individually make this music their own.
Of course back then, Pearson Sound would be known as David Kennedy, but it would plant the seed for Hessle Audio, and kickstart a production/DJ career where Kennedy would first be introduced to the world as Ramadanman. As Ramadanman, he found love on labels like 2nd Drop, Soul Jazz and Apple Pips while establishing Acetate in Leeds – a vinyl only night as a base from which his skills as a selector would first be noted and establish the DJ super-power we’ve come to know today. Back then he favoured a Garage focused sound, that took the frequency spectrum of dubstep to a two-step beat and R&B melodies. It’s a sound that would eventually modulate however and as it went into a rachet minimalists percussive workouts like Blimey and Revenue, it started to take on a life its own, and eventually moved over to its own sonic palette as Pearson Sound. Kennedy would eventually resign the very successful Ramadanman alias with the Missy-Elliot-sampling white label, Grab Somebody, showcasing the kind of uncompromising challenging personality behind the music who prefers not to rest on his laurels.
As Pearson Sound, he would adopt some of the zeitgeist around 2010/11 venturing further into those dark, vast minimalists tools that contemporaries like Blawan and Randomer were doing at the same time, while effectively drawing a line of separation between him and everybody else. Where his peers were effectively embarking further and arbitrarily into other territories, Kennedy as Pearson Sound was honing and refining a sound that would become intrinsically his while reserving his more varied works for new monikers like Maurice Donovan and DJ Harlow, the latter’s brand of high energy Techno the producer’s latest departure from what has become an obvious Pearson Sound sonic aesthetic.
Through it all, there’s always been a versatility to David Kennedy, especially alongside his Hessle Audio compatriots. One that evolves along the lines of some invisible path where they find new unique voices, existing between genres and styles. With three different personalities informing everything on the label, the output has always favoured a reserved approach, placing a lot of significance on each release, especially true when it features one of the two producers at the head of the label, Pangaea or Pearson Sound. Kennedy and his reserved output on his own label, even as Ramadanman suggests a severe personal investment exists where the forward momentum of the label is always the prime objective. From the Grime-focussed drum workouts of Starburst to functional tools of Clutch and last year’s extended mixes from his album, there’s a definitive drive to constantly be pushing the boundaries of dance floor conventions through his unique artistic voice, but even more so when it dons the Hessle Audio tag.
He cemented this with his acclaimed self-titled debut from last year. Pearson Sound saw the artist bring yet another dimension to his work, for the first time appropriating the album format. He showed a new depth to his work, where he took the icy electronics and functional minimalists beats of his earlier work and channelled it into something closer to a portrait of conspiring elements, eschewing individual tracks for the sake of the greater whole. Pearson Sound would swell with the accents of deep low rumbling kicks; creep around melodies and atmospheres with sinister motives; and break club music down to fundamental parts before building up again into songs. Where there were only a dance-floor designs before, Kennedy created immersive listening experiences that showed there was a lot more depth that waited past their functionality. It showed that Pearson Sound can be simple and effective through many layers of complexities even when the dance floor isn’t able to accommodate him, and in the context of his earlier works it showed an artist with much more to offer than just the functional DJ tool.
It was that “forward-thinking” ideology seeping through his work on that album, much like it has done since Ramadanman, and it’s the same thing that keeps Pearson Sound interesting as he continues to modulate within the spectrum of the Pearson sound. Where XLB brings us today with it’s energetic percussive workout and frozen electronics, is not that far removed from PLSN, and at the other end of the spectrum a more unconventional or unusual approach like REM or Raindrops exists too, but like PLSN and XLB they are all very much cut from the same cloth without falling victim to bare repetition. There’s a host of possibility within the Pearson Sound convention and effortlessly floats from the studio to the booth, where his sets are a little more flexible. In the booth you can hear a more varied sound, informed as much by Ramadanman and DJ Harlow than by that stark minimalist bass sound he owns as Pearson Sound, all infected with the palpable energy of those FWD>> nights at Plastic People with an eye firmly on the next phase of club music.
Pearson Sound has been a cornerstone to that next phase as an artist, a DJ and a label head. He continues to challenge the status quo from the booth to the studio and through Hessle Audio, frequently modulating between futuristic trends while establishing something unique within them, an idiosyncrasy that defies any simple label except one, Pearson Sound.