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Ewan Pearson - Piece Work

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Artist: Ewan Pearson

Album: Piece Work

Label: !K7

Review date: Dec. 7, 2007

As evinced from the track appreciations he posts on the aptly-titled "Enthusiasm" section of his website, Ewan Pearson likes to keep his ears busy. Piece Work, a long-overdue and abridged anthology of his vociferous remix work, documents his own lavish contributions to the cause. Abundant in ideas, tones and rhythms, a signature Pearson remix truly extends a track not just in length but depth and spectrum. Many tasked with remixing often swallow the source material whole like a cartoon cat gobbling a bird only to burp out a few feathers. Instead, Pearson tends carefully to the original like a wide-eyed architect – hollowing out a section here, buttressing a melody there, and almost always punching windows for glorious new vistas.

A proud pursuant of pop, Pearson here largely tackles songs, 21 in all, with distinct, often big choruses, His job is not to complicate them but, rather, widen their scope and busy the reclaimed expanses of sound with all matter of sensate activity. The showstopper is clearly Goldfrapp's "Ride a White Horse" (her second appearance on the album), a "Disco Odyssey" by Pearson's own admission that spans two songs, here merged into one 15-minute spectacle of comet-tailed fireworks, gushes of modulator foam, swishing vocoder sighs and a distorted melody worthy of Kraftwerk's twilight idylls. Some of Pearson's remixes are overripe to the point of disintegration into juice and color, but he can just as well strip down to titanium-sheathed organs and chrome bones. Pearson makes quite literal the cold and dark headspace of Pet Shop Boys' "Psychological" in poured concrete and galvanized steel.

As ever with remix albums, the provenance of primary sources can be an immediate distraction or deference (just reading Piece Work's cast can be aversive: among relative obscurities stick out glaring middlers like Franz Ferdinand, Royksopp, Chemical Brothers and, worst of all, Moby). Pearson doesn't fix all these busted engines, but at least makes them all purr. Alas, he scraps but a few of The Rapture's karaoke Robert Smith histrionics (all those fluttery whines and falsetto whimpers) and too much of Cortney Tidwell's spooked Björking remains.

Unlike DJ mixes, a remix anthology rarely drives one to seek out what lies underneath all the accoutrements. It’s just as well considering how unsightly some of them can be. But in the case of Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence," the bonafide real-world hit in the batch, its pinprick melody is retained for a superhuman expansion into something equally familiar and mysterious. Like the album's cover, an explosive, near op-art sunburst that appears to be quilted on a comforter, it tempers intimacy with startling alterations.

Sure, Piece Work can be a rather exhausting listen from start to finish. Spread across two discs, most tracks are opulent productions of delirious augmentation tilt upwards on hydraulic force . But as a repository of Pearson's productions, normally sprawled across countless labels and releases, it’s an invaluable resource.

By Bernardo Rondeau

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