Fred again.. – ‘Actual Life 3 (January 1 – September 9 2022)’ review: candid dancefloor dispatches for the masses

The latest instalment of the in-demand producer’s diaristic solo album series further builds on his contemplative yet club-ready formula that has connected far and wide

Fred Gibson, AKA the exceptionally well-connected electronic producer Fred again.., has never been shy about letting us into his world. His two previous audio-diary solo albums, April 2021’s ‘Actual Life (April 14 – December 17 2020)’ and November 2021’s ‘Actual Life 2 (February 2 – October 15 2021)’, saw the south Londoner openly share warm and often intimate voice notes from his friends and collaborators. Sitting alongside spontaneous phone recordings made while on his travels, audio snippets from Instagram clips and samples from some of his favourite records, Gibson has sewn a candid diaristic patchwork over the past few years that’s provided him with the basis for building his contemplative yet club-ready sonic world.

The third instalment of ‘Actual Life’ continues this soul-baring approach. “How are you, Fred?” a voice is heard asking on the juddering two-parter ‘Kelly (end of a nightmare)’. “I’ve not seen you in so long. Can we please see each other? I miss you.” Judging by his busy schedule – in addition to his own material, Gibson has worked with the likes of Swedish House Mafia, Future and more in 2022 – the producer might genuinely be using his latest album as a means of finally replying to his friends. But the voice note’s emphasis on the importance of reconnecting after a substantial amount of time apart will resonate with many as the memories of lockdown continue to subside.

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It won’t be very long,” a stirring sample of the late gospel singer Clara Ward, reaffirms that notion on the pounding ‘Clara (the night is dark)’. While it appears to take at least some subtle cues from the legendary synth break heard on Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’, the soaring track seems tailor-made for soundtracking the continuing return of dancefloors and music festivals post-COVID. Such locations will also provide the perfect setting for Gibson’s latest set of beats-driven bangers: expect to hear the Four Tet co-produced ‘Delilah (pull me out of this)’, the vibrant Kamille-featuring ‘Kammy (like i do)’ and ‘Danielle (smile on my face)’, which samples 070 Shake’s vocals from her 2019 single ‘Nice To Have’, blasting out of speakers for the rest of this year and well into 2023.

Gibson’s inclination towards expressing thoughtful and emotional contemplation largely balance out the record’s apparent eagerness to simply rave through the pain. The sentimental ‘Mustafa (time to move you)’ recycles a host of spectral voice notes from the two previous ‘Actual Life’ albums, as well as a newly-cooed verse from Gibson himself, while the climatic melancholy of ‘End Of Me’ features the kind of airy, synth-drenched soundscape his mentor Brian Eno would be proud of. Berwyn, meanwhile, takes the lead on ‘Berwyn (all that i got is you)’ with a typically poetic contribution, declaring: “Fuck the neighbours, turn the music upI love you more than every single sheet of Rizla I’ve licked.”

The brief final track, ‘September 5th 2022’, concludes ‘Actual Life 3’ with the message “if you don’t know, don’t worry,” which may be sage, if slightly blinkered, advice to live by in such uncertain times. Such grand declarations are certainly par for the course for Gibson, who evidently finds a great sense of catharsis in sharing his world with his listeners – a privilege we shouldn’t take for granted any time soon.

Details

Fred again.. - Actual Life 3 artwork

  • Release date: October 28, 2022
  • Record label: Atlantic Records
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