Actress's latest opus is loaded with sonic trickery, understated emotion and unusual song-compositions. Here's just a few descriptions of the album's sound based on a couple of listens, and I'll probably flesh out this review on repeat listens. I highly recommend you listen too, as this is a fantastic and forward-thinking record.
'Uriel's Black Harp' has plucked strings play out beneath an insistent insect chirp and an ominous machine-groan. On repeat listens I thought I noticed a classical instrumental seep into the track near the end. 'Marble Plexus' has a 4/4 thud but there's also a skewed and weirdly alien sounding synth-melody that sounds a bit off like you're hearing it through a worm-hole. Slightly muted sleigh-bell percussion veers in towards the latter half of the song and the submerged harmonies become more grand-sounding and hymn-like.
'Shadow From Tartarus' surges along via its own bass-weight and is one of the most dubby, and indeed clubby, tracks here. 'Caves Of Paradise' is another dance-floor ready number, but once again there's an introverted majesty to its looping melody that befits listening through headphones and closing your eyes. 'IWAAD' is a beautifully pastoral and elegant piece of music. I was initially a bit shocked at how resolutely emotive it sounded in comparison to anything from his previous album 'Splazsh', and this album hits me way deeper than anything Actress has done before.
Anyone unfamiliar with Actress have been missing out, over the last few years he's crafted his own unique brand of music using the blueprints of house and techno. His albums Hazyville and Splazsh are defining moments in dance music. With 'R.I.P.', Actress has really loosened up and gone deeper. In fact, 'R.I.P.' doesn't often sound like an Actress album, where's he decided to concentrate and expand on the areas in-between the beats. Its often difficult to notice where the beats are as the structural elements become unrecognisable, and a greater attention to detail is placed on the layers and layers of sound.
The beats are still present, you just have to re-align your senses. Tracks like the album highlight 'Raven' offers the sparsest of percussion and hushed piano, brushed over with a fuzzy shuffling noise which sounds like it should be further in the background but becomes essential to the track. The disorientating 'Serpent' is typical of the album, what at first appears an irregular group of melodies really is a carefully conceived track, slowly turning into a hallucinatory slice of distorted techno. Actress hasn't dismissed the traditional 4/4, tracks like 'The Lords Graffiti' will keep the diehards more than happy. The last track `IWAAD' ends a great album, an almost deep house track with distorted vocal samples looped over an asymmetrical shuffle and low-end bass.
Cunningham's musical scope and vocabulary was already large, working in areas similar to Flying Lotus but defined in a very different way. 'R.I.P.' is Actress at his most idiosyncratic, perhaps not to everyones tastes but well worth a good few listens. He hasn't abandoned the funk, his musical explorations on 'R.I.P.' have added yet another dimension to his music. Tracks like 'Jardin', 'Glint' and many others offers us a glimpse into where Actress may be headed, I certainly cant wait for his next quest.
London based artist Actress doesn't make techno, IDM or house, instead he makes an electronic hybrid of all the aformentioned whilst throwing in a little Music concrete on top just to sweeten the honeypot. Tim Heckers ambient drone is a good reference point for the way the music on R.I.P.(Darren Cunningham's) third album sounds albeit with a litle more mischieve and tad less devastation. The synthesizers squirt and spit throughout the entirity of this, abstract sounds seem to emerge unexpectedly only to dissolve or disentegrate once they've racketed up the necessary tension in the music.
The tools he uses to achieve this effect are as expansive as his imagination, i've tried to pick out particular instruments whilst i've been listening and so far i've got synths, harps, possibly keyboards and something resembling the chirping of a cricket. the cumulative effect is unnerving without becoming completely sinsiter, i guess you could say it's psychedelic with a fair few come downs. After checking out Actress's sophomore record Splazsh when it was released two years ago, it became clear to me that he might be an artist to watch out for and he's certainly built upon the already impressve ideas that were on display with that album.
The unifromity of R.I.P. might initially feel like a paring down of the music on Splazsh however the reduction in scope actually results in an illumination of force with these sharply penetrative soundcapes enveloping your mind with repeated exsposure. For those who like their dance music to have the familiar pulse of a four to the floor beat, with plenty of snare drums and hi hat cymbals this album probably isn't really for you. If you are fans of Burial's introspective garagy dubstep or Emeralds brilliant last record however, this should definitely be investigated.
This record is, I read somewhere, Darren Cunningham's dream-influenced album. And in fact it's not unlike that other (in)famous dream album Selected Ambient Works Ii in overall feel, except a lot shorter. More ambient than Actress's previous two LPs, although perhaps even darker and weirder: his usual Detroit techno influences are present, but for me there's also a touch of Cabaret Voltaire in here too.
R.I.P. cements this former West Bromwich Albion player's Premier League of techno status for the foreseeable future.