Complex electronica from one of the UK’s most inventive artists
Darren Jordan Cunningham has been making boundary-pushing electronic music under the Actress name for well over a decade. His last album, 2014’s ‘Ghettoville’, was a dark, glitchy and soulful triumph. ‘AZD’, his fifth, is no less imaginative, a record themed entirely around chrome. Concept albums are few and far between in 2017, but even rarer are the ones dealing with the shiny surfaces found in mid-range suburban wine bars. But then, the work of Actress is less music and more sound art. You won’t be seeking out the complex digital symphony that is ‘Faure In Chrome’ the next time you hijack a house party aux cable at 2am, but you might want to let its crisp textures percolate through your brain as it scours away the nonsense of the day.
Repetition is one of Actress’s core building blocks, with ‘Blue Window’ based around a hypnotic groove, while ‘CYN’ brings in one of the only vocals on this record, sampling the late graffiti artist and hip-hop pioneer Rammellzee over skittering beats and dreamy synth lines. It’s like two different songs are happening at the same time, but it sounds magical. Big, beefier beats step in for ‘X22RME’, one of the few tunes that could sneak onto the dancefloor, but preferably in a seedy Berlin basement.
The more experimental side of the record is where things get really challenging. ‘Dancing In The Smoke’ is Actress’s very own sonic Pollock, a six-minute soundscape that’s part deep house meditation, part Burial B-sides. You might be more likely to find ‘AZD’ at the Tate Modern than in the charts, but that’s part of why British music needs him.