computerchemist is the ongoing solo project of Dave Pearson, who lives in Székesfehérvár, Hungary, after moving from the UK in 2008.
Over the last 25 years Dave's music has been strongly influenced by “classic” Berlin School performers such as Tangerine Dream (mostly from the '72-'86 period) and Klaus Schulze, as well as taking inspiration from newer, more contemporary musicians with a diversity ranging from The Mars Volta to Csaba Vedres.
His latest excursion, the third album "Landform", takes the listener again into an ethereal synthesizer and guitar landscape, with a distinctly original take on the classic Berlin-school sound.
"It's quite unique in blending pads, sequencing and then guitars and drums also. Maybe nobody has ever made this connection but Tangerine Dream meets Klaus Schulze meets early King Crimson meets Starless and Bible black era King Crimson meets Dave Pearson."
The first two albums have already received critical acclaim from many quarters.
Review below by Greg Allen, author of Klaus Schulze : Electronic Music Legend (www.KlausSchulzeBook.com)
Dave Pearson aka/Computerchemist’s third album, Landform is a revelation. A revelation that, for me, at least, took place gradually as I listened to the album several times in a one week period. I like it a lot!
A few things about the album:
First, if you like classic EM sequencing, its here in liberal doses. On one or more occasions, that sequencing comes unexpectedly, the same technique used by the master Klaus Schulze, who surprises with sequencer appearances and tonal direction frequently. The sequencing always takes on more of a “thrill factor” for me when it comes suddenly, as a surprise.
Second the sounds are all first class, the album is well recorded and there are some special surprises along the way in terms of effects and even a female voice in the background (which is that of Joss who was one of the DJs on the Mexican internet radio show "Después del Eclipse" who did the first "exclusive" of Icon One before the album launch). Also, the drumming at times hits a high level that reminded me a little of the special sound in Go Live from Paris. I also found it striking how beautiful and varied the string pads are on this album.
Dave describes his musical development and approach:
“During most of the '80s I played in various prog and rock bands, still managing to get Berlin school sequencer parts in though! It was only during the ‘90s that I gravitated completely back to the grass roots sounds which first inspired me to play synth, and spent many years perfecting the style.
Now I do all of my playing on a single master keyboard - a Keystation 88es - and with virtual instruments there is no need for racks of synths anymore! The guitar work is the only ‘real’ instrumentation but one thing I have always been keen on is to physically perform all of the parts rather than leave it to a factory made 120 bpm loop as a lot of modern music tends to be these days. In this way, the drum parts are played either through the master keyboard or, where it gets fiddly, on midi pads using sticks - yes, real sticks!”
The first song, “After the Eclipse” leads off with brief vibe-like synth, evolving quickly into classic T-Dream, Hoenig, Schulze style sequencing. The song quickly mixes in drums, lead guitar (a searing lead that sounds very good, reminding at times of Steve Hillage or even Manuel Göttsching). A special treat is the background spoken female voice (Joss) with an almost accordion-like sound accompanying it briefly. All the while, sequencer plays along with lush string synth pads - joined by male choir in the second half of the song.
“After the Eclipse”, as with the other four songs, is nice compositionally, always changing things up before any threat of boredom occurs.
Second is “Darklight Drive”, a 12 minutes plus song that is sure to delight! Piano and a dark sounding, very rich cello set a mood early. Higher strings counterbalance that a bit but the overall effect is emotion producing for me. A sudden sequencer plays at 3 minutes, joined quickly by drums and plaintive guitar work. The guitar and sequencer dominate for awhile, complemented at times by some imposing power drumming, bass and lead that hits with the impact of some of the power passages of King Crimson in the Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black, Red period.
There is a synth sound (using the "Crystal" VSTi synth) that scrubs and swishes; early in the song it sounded a bit like birds and up in the mix. Later, it’s less up front and I found myself wondering if it wouldn’t be better without that sound, which is repeated several times. That is difficult to say, though. Dave explains it this way, “It's used sparingly in the first part, I likened it to maybe flocks of birds at dawn, swamp creatures, and as you've picked up also in the third part, the interlude between the two rather guitar heavy pieces, but there it's more like the slow drifting of something between two more powerful phases, like the interplanetary gap between the launch and the landing powered phase of a space journey.”
The sequencing in “Darklight Drive”, takes on an ethereal sound late - backed by mid octave pads that complements it well. The drumming patterns are also very interesting late in the song. This is where the volume control may go up! “Darklight Drive” is a strong and powerful track!
Third up is “Cavesearch”, which starts out with Dave playing the piano (synthesized but sounding realistic). He has obviously had training on the piano. Lush pads, light drumming and a hint of female choir take the song forward at a moderate pace. Pensive flute is followed by gathering momentum including sequencer and decisive, sharply attacking drum hits.
A propulsive and exciting sequencer launches “Cavesearch” toward a very intense period culminating with the lead guitar and sequencing alternating with each other in a “musical conversation”. The final minutes of “Cavesearch” are filled with inventive, creative sound elements that come across as a treat.
Fourth is the title track, “Landform”. It starts with an extended solo string pad, yielding to sequencer and Minimoog-like sweeps through the soundscape. The song has a moderate pace, overall, guided by the drumming and featuring many swirling pads and other lead synth sounds.
The last song, which is my personal favorite on Landform, is “Geoid”. The special quality of this piece is made by the mysterious sounding, lilting and magical sequencer which backs the whole track. In front of the beat are liberal lush pads and some of the most inspiring guitar work on Landform, reminding me a bit of Manuel Göttsching’s scorching guitar work on In Blue (by the maestro, Schulze). This is a killer song and could be quite addictive!
I think that while Computerchemist’s style can easily remind one of Tangerine Dream, his style is unique, refreshing and all his own – a real change from the typical EM sound but yet retaining several of its best ingredients.
I had a lot of fun listening to Landform this last week!
Greg Allen, November 30, 2008