Actress - R.I.P. Vinyl 2LP
Actress R.I.P. Vinyl 2LP
Darren Cunningham is one of those dance music producers who has spent most of his career moving away from the dancefloor. The London-based artist's first two albums as Actress, 2008's Hazyville and 2010's Splazsh, sounded like mid-1980s house and techno collaged together and played on a radio from under the freeway. Half of his newest, R.I.P., doesn't even have beats. Listening to him discuss his process making it-- which included reading John Milton, philosophizing about death, and smoking weed-- you'd think he was a PhD candidate.
In general, his productions are less about their build-and-release than their atmosphere, which hovers over the bones of the music like some sick gas cloud. The innovation on R.I.P. is to put as much effort into making things clean as making them dirty, and the result is a sense of contrast: Fog gives way to clarity; fat, puffy synthesizer sounds play off pinprick-sharp ones.
Like all good contrasts, it's simple and eureka-like: By bringing the acidic sounds to the surface and keeping the air-conditioner hum somewhere in the depths, Cunningham takes the monolithic sound of his earlier productions and breaks them into layers-- compared to Splazsh, it's practically prismatic.
It's not the sound that makes the music, though, but the structure of it. R.I.P. is a deliberately uncoordinated album. Rhythms, basslines, and melodies slip in and out of line with each other. Comparatively straightforward, house-oriented tracks like "Shadow From Tartarus" are situated next to murk and ambience like "Tree of Knowledge". The emphasis here, though, is on "comparative": Even R.I.P.'s steady 4/4 tracks sound grimy and deconstructed.
But there's something almost flirtatious in the way he lets the sounds worm around in the dark, looking to hook up with something firm. When they do, it's both mechanical and mystical, like watching a sculpture cut from raw stone.
Actress R.I.P. Track Listing:
3. Holy Water
4. Marble Plexus
5 Uriel's Black Harp
8. Shadow from Tartarus
1. Tree of Knowledge
4. Caves of Paradise
5. The Lord's Graffiti
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