Ewan Pearson: Piece Work

Choosing Piece Work as a title may carry a whiff of drudgery but producer de jour Ewan Pearson is hardly going through the motions on this double-disc set's twenty-one remixes. Having brought a Midas touch to nearly sixty releases by marquee acts like Franz Ferdinand, The Rapture, Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, and The Chemical Brothers, Pearson now compiles 150 minutes of infectious work he's produced since the 2001 remixes comp Small Change. Generally, the English-born, Berlin-based producer and DJ builds luscious arrangements from elements of electro, New Wave, funk, trance, and disco; tracks burst with gleaming synth melodies, silken strings, stomping beats, and myriad electronic enhancements. Most are jubilant in spirit (the sleek synth-pop of “Visions” by Slam featuring Dot Allison one example of many) and, though not every song impresses equally, there are enough magical moments to argue unreservedly in the release's favour.

A major part of Pearson's genius involves balance: locating the perfect mid-point between imposing his own voice on the material and preserving the artist's, and maintaining the accessible pop essence of the original material while also extending it into an elaborate, even grandiose production realm where experimental enhancements and clubby dance motifs are liberally applied. He doesn't shoe-horn an artist's material into a pre-ordained template but rather brings a fecund resourcefulness to each song to transform it in a natural manner. Though Pearson's clearly no reductionist—the tracks are uniformly wide-screen—, he consistently elevates the material: a dreamy funk-house backing boosts Mocky's “Catch a Moment in Time,” for instance, and the strangulated, David Byrne-on-helium squawk that sails through The Rapture's “I Need Your Love” is rendered more palatable by the electro-house treatment. In The Chemical Brothers “The Golden Path” (featuring The Flaming Lips), a jittery house groove goosed by sputtering synth noises and ricocheting bell patterns propels the singing raconteur until voices swell into a grandiose choral finale at song's end. Pearson also transforms Silver City 's “Shiver” into a celestial paradise that surges relentlessly for eight minutes, growing increasingly transcendent as it inches towards its climax.

Delights abound, especially on disc two: Alter Ego's “Beat the Bush” becomes a dizzying raver, Röyksopp's “49 Percent” an electro-funk club stomp, and Ladytron's “Evil” emerges as the most haunting New Wave anthem you never heard. Surprisingly, two of the best tracks—Goldfrapp's “Ride a White Horse” and Cortney Tidwell's “Don't Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up”—are the longest, but, rather than being overlong and bloated, they give Pearson room to work his magic to the fullest. Some originals are bullet-proof (Closer Musik's “One, Two, Three - No Gravity,” Depeche Mode's “Enjoy The Silence”), making his job easier on the one hand but more difficult too, given that bettering the original becomes a trickier proposition. Judging by the two examples included here, Pearson and Goldfrapp are a perfect match: the schaffel makeover of Goldfrapp's “Train” is fabulous (especially when Pearson's bleepy electro touches wrap themselves around Alison Goldfrapp's entrancing voice), and the fifteen-minute(!) “Ride a White Horse” re-invention gloriously lives up to the ‘Disco Odyssey Parts 1 & 2' remix title affixed to it. Hearing the soaring vocal glide over Pearson's breezily swinging groove is a pure joy, as is the euphoric ‘Objects In Space' re-imagining of Nashville singer Cortney Tidwell's “Don't Let Stars Keep Us Tangled Up.”

October 2007