As in rock music, there's no shortage of egos in the DJ game. But Ewan Pearson has made his name largely by lying low. While he's no stranger to original productions (made under the aliases Maas, World of Apples and Partial Arts, his duo with Al Usher), the vast majority of his output consists of remixes for other artists from across the musical spectrum, from pop acts like Pet Shop Boys and … read more »
As in rock music, there's no shortage of egos in the DJ game. But Ewan Pearson has made his name largely by lying low. While he's no stranger to original productions (made under the aliases Maas, World of Apples and Partial Arts, his duo with Al Usher), the vast majority of his output consists of remixes for other artists from across the musical spectrum, from pop acts like Pet Shop Boys and Franz Ferdinand to techno mainstays like Alter Ego. Lately, he's been turning up more and more frequently in the producer's chair, lending his studio skills and musical vision to records from the Rapture, M83, Delphic and Tracey Thorn, among others.
The secret to being a good producer is being a good listener, and Pearson's attentive ear is also what distinguishes him as a DJ. We Are Proud of Our Choices is his third mix CD, after 2005's Sci.Fi.Hi.Fi Volume 1 and 2007's Fabric 35. Pearson has described the process of putting together the mix as a daunting task, given the context — previous Kompakt mixes from Michael Mayer, Tobias Thomas, Superpitcher and DJ Koze hold an almost iconic status in the dance-music canon — and the desire to differentiate it from his previous mix CDs. He reportedly sifted through hundreds of tracks in preparation. As any maker of mixtapes knows, the number of possible combinations increases exponentially with every record added to the list, which means that Pearson's practice sessions must have amounted to a tangled jungle of forking paths.
The final mix, however, is remarkably coherent, despite the range of sounds covered. It opens with lilting ambient techno and pop detailing before swelling into deep, Detroit-inspired techno. Then, like a dog that's finally finished circling its bed, it settles into a stretch of low-slung house grooves before subtly increasing the tension across a stretch marked by pumping pulses and high drama, climaxing with a glorious, Caribbean-inspired remix by John Talabot, released on Pearson's own Misericord label. And like any good mix should, it comes with its own comedown session in the form of the last two tracks, Pearson's dreamy mix of Little Dragon's "Fortune" and Botox's "Blue Steel," a slo-mo electro-disco tearjerker. Even listeners who know many of the tracks may have difficulty pinpointing where they begin and end, so seamless are the transitions here. Pearson is a master of mixing in key (that is, blending records harmonically, and not just rhythmically), and his knack for teasing out long melodic lines and parallel rhythmic phrases gives the session an unmistakable unity. It's a single arc whose narrative loosely recreates the span of an entire club night, from the opening hour to the after-party, in one 75-minute session.