This is perhaps most apparent in the UK, where new music scenes can emerge and disappear before you’ve even caught up with your favourite label’s latest 12”. And although there are always new things happening across the world, it’s probably only the UK that offers such diversity in dance music. Compare the party listings for any weekend in London and Berlin, for instance, and take a guess which city offers more variety.
As one third of the dynamic trio Hessle Audio, David Kennedy knows this better than most. Alongside Pangaea and Ben UFO his label helped spearhead a new movement in the wake of dubstep by carving out a whole new sound, which would propel many new artists’ careers and lay the foundations for new experimental sounds.
When you think about it, the scope of this was so broad as well – guys like Blawan, Cosmin TRG and Objekt all put out music on Hessle in the early days, but nowadays their sounds couldn’t be further removed from the label’s Bristolian figures like Peverelist, Kowton and Bruce.
Recording first as Ramadanman and later Pearson Sound, Kennedy has also been one of the key producers behind Hessle Audio’s singular style. And while you’ll usually find him producing and spinning house records in 2017, there have been many different scenes he tried his hand in before this.
Before he brings his unique take on UK dance music to Room One on 20th January, we looked back at some of the key moments defining his career to date.
Don't Change For Me - Ramadanman [Hessle Audio]
It might seem hard to believe now, but it wasn’t that long ago Kennedy was playing drum & bass in his club sets. He gives a nod to this love of his on Don’t Change For Me, where jumpy breaks do most of the legwork. It might initially be easily mistaken for an older jungle cut, until the groaning synth lines and sliced-up vocals show Kennedy’s knack for reworking older templates.
Blanked - Pearson Sound [Hessle Audio]
Blanked sees Kennedy playing around with percussive sparsity as he slows down an amen break to within an inch of its life, while a moody bass line is the main vehicle working alongside it. This quickly detracts from the focus though – the bass line still glugs along with some synths as some of his stylised vocal cries ring in the distance. By the time that amen break reappears, it gets your feet tapping and you’ve forgotten how slow it was in the first place. Like so much of the best of his work, Kennedy takes a tried-and-tested arrangement by tearing it apart and rearranging into something far greater than the sum of its parts.
Faint - Joy Orbison, Boddika & Pearson Sound [SunkLo]
There were many offshoots of the dubstep sound Hessle helped spawn, but few went as dark as Boddika and Joy O’s collaborations. Kennedy joins them on Faint in a flurry of low and dubby bass lines laced with sparse, thudding percussion. Most memorable though is the moaning ‘I begin to go weak’ refrain. Dragging, ceaseless and moody as hell, it pulls away at you just as its words imply. As this dissipates under a wall of sound owing more to shoegaze than the sound of Croydon, you suddenly realise the scope of the trio’s arsenal.
I first realised the damage this could do hearing Roman Flügel drop it in the middle of a house set in Panorama Bar early on a Sunday morning when it first came out, so it’s no surprise it’s one I still rate.
Thaw Cycle - Pearson Sound [Pearson Sound]
Most people (including the Hessle trio) were battering Freeze Cycle at the time this dropped, but for me the B-side is the choice cut here. The drums buzz like wasps as a kick thuds away intermittently, while a pensive piano loop pulls at your heartstrings insistently. Classy, sleek and wistful, it’s the kind of thing you could just as easily imagine in the hands of Move D, Margaret Dygas, or Nick Höppner.
XLB - Pearson Sound [Pearson Sound]
If there’s one thing tying all of David Kennedy’s best tracks together, it’s his ability for writing unrelenting dance floor bangers. On XLB dicey hi-hats belie a pool of swirling synths, but they’re only there to keep some kind of formula to the thing. The synths drip away as if part of a kaleidoscopic dream, then suddenly you’re hit with the bass line in a percussive frenzy.
For all his experimentation in other avenues, last year’s XLB showed us David Kennedy’s ongoing affinity for club-focussed sounds, and just how to make a dance floor explode.