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Pearson Sound & Ramadanman - Fabriclive 56

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Artist: Pearson Sound & Ramadanman

Album: Fabriclive 56

Label: Fabric

Review date: Apr. 1, 2011

It’s apt that David Kennedy is releasing this live set of his tenure from London’s Fabric nightclub under both of his aliases. If the two persona don’t exactly indicate a split personality, their presence together on the album cover at least points to an acceptance that the center, especially in modern club music, has not held. The center here meaning London/the U.K. geographically and the Hardcore Continuum conceptually.

While the lion’s share of Kennedy’s selections do hail from the U.K., mixing and matching grime, dubstep, U.K. funky and their ilk, they are decidedly contemporary, new enough that they’re hard to pin down generically. He also takes on more international flavors, working in house tunes and even a Shangaan track from last year’s stellar comp, Shangaan Electro. In many ways, it’s a DJ set on record that works a delicate balance: be of the moment, but also have depth.

As recorded documents, DJ sets, especially live ones, are generally problematic. In the club, a set has only one imperative: does it get the floor moving? There’s no time to stop and analyze, to interpret and argue with selections and mixes. On record, though, it’s another matter. For a set to work, it has to not only hold up to technical scrutiny, it has to have a narrative, to create new contexts for familiar tunes as well as new ones.

Large swathes of Kennedy’s set most likely fulfilled the live criteria, and as a so-called album, it holds up to repeated listening. His narrative is not merely chronological, nor does it do the obvious and build in intensity towards a peak and then peter out. Instead, its general movement is from light to dark and back again, numerous times over the course of the set. The beats here have shade and tone, rather than just tempo.

In the first few minutes, he twists the aggressive house drive of Marcello Napoletano’s “Everyday Madness” into the brighter, even more up-tempo lilt of the Shangaan tune “Vanghoma,” then bursts into the frenetic U.K. funky of his own “Wad” and the booty-bass of “Grab Somebody” (also his own tune). In the latter third of the set, he pulls off an even headier transition, seamlessly transforming his reworking of the Joy Orbison dance-floor filler “J. Doe” and his own upbeat banger ”Picon” into Burial’s bleak “Pirates”. In other hands, it might have arrested the dance floor, but Kennedy moves through it gracefully, emptying it out into the percussive jam of “Face (Junk)”.

Ultimately, though, this is a live album, and the last five tunes or so show it. There’s an uncertainty, a kind of rhythmic stasis, as if Kennedy doesn’t know where to take things next. But there’s nothing wrong with that. On the contrary, it just marks what Kennedy, and this mix, seem to be all about: the vibrancy of a single moment, revelling in the rush that comes from exactly that not knowing of what’s around the corner.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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