- Reviewing Pearson Sound's Clutch EP back in 2012, I said "I'm not quite sure what one is supposed to call this music." He hasn't made it any easier since. We've had minimalist rhythmic workouts, synth-soaked reveries and most recently, beatless excursions, each one more reduced than the last. But what made them great was David Kennedy's unusual ear for melody. That's remained a constant, from the bright organ streaks of "Untitled" to the repetitive uppercuts of "Power Drums." His debut album takes the ongoing distillation of his music to another level, largely abandoning melody in favour of dry percussive rattling. He's left us with a head-scratcher of a first album that feels confused and, at times, uninspired.
There are glimpses of the maverick producer at his best here. After a suitable warm-up with "Asphalt Sparkle," Kennedy delivers one of his best club tunes in years with "Glass Eye," a track built on a rubbery bounce, with eerie strings and aquatic melodies that squeak and pop as if they're being pushed up against the edges of the track. The closer, "Rubber Tree," is equally powerful, albeit in a more direct way. This one is broken and distorted, like an old Pearson Sound track that's been clobbered with a hatchet. Its forthrightness is all the more satisfying after sitting through a record that feels like it's constantly holding back.
On "Gristle" Kennedy plays out a simple synth tone over and over while static slowly eats away at the edges. There's no percussion or momentum, nor any particular direction. That issue is exacerbated by the following track, "Crank Call," a barebones drum loop with a droopy synth that sounds like a smoke alarm with dying batteries. These tracks, and a few others on Pearson Sound, make for a knotty midsection that drags in spite of the album's short run time. On any one listen you might latch onto something appealing, like the hand-cranked drums on the very weird "Swill," but the album has an unfortunate tendency to melt into a beige blob. That can make even the more full-bodied "Russet" and "Headless"—otherwise nice little morsels—feel bloodless by proximity.
As his first-full length, Pearson Sound is Kennedy's most substantial release yet, but it's also one of his least adventurous. It's possible that he viewed the LP as a respite from from the trappings of a dance 12-inch, a yearning that Raindrops seemed to reflect. But the record's hesitance to go too far in any one direction lands it in an awkward place between clubby and experimental. There are good moments on Pearson Sound, and the oddball compositional style Kennedy has been perfecting since the beginning means that even the less exciting tracks here have their upsides. But coming from a producer who habitually finds new ways to dazzle, Pearson Sound is uncharacteristically average.
01. Asphalt Sparkle
02. Glass Eye
04. Crank Call
06. Six Congas
09. Rubber Tree