It’s safe to assume that Darren Cunningham, the enigmatic character behind Actress, has never so much as glanced at the techno producer’s rule book. And it’s to his credit, as latest outing “R.I.P” plays as a uniquely post-genre, individual work of brilliance.
Arguably, previous albums “Splazsh” and “Hazyville” looked out of the producer’s South London studio for influence, with beat-driven tracks drawing in ideas from luminaries in Detroit and Berlin. “R.I.P” however, looks deeply inwards, the listener feeling almost perverse as we witness one man’s exhalation of creativity.
The staggering level of detail included on this album is omnipresent. The track structuring is as perfect as it could be, with Cunningham leading you through a seemingly endless weave of dark cavernous crypts, rarely but welcomely interspersed with shards of daylight. Though it may come across as unwarrantedly profound to rattle on about how “R.I.P” is a concept album exploring visions of afterlife, it’s difficult to ignore this. The enveloping ambience on the title’s opener and following tracks “Ascending” and “Holy Water” are, as macabre as it may sound, easy to imagine as the soundtrack to the movement of a soul from the body.
“Marble Plexus” brings the first introduction of anything vaguely recognising a kick drum, and a movement from odd clicks and bleeps to a seemingly improvised wall of white noise. This is another nuance of the album, apparently aleatoric placement of heavily filtered percussive sounds that gives a bafflingly “live” feel to something that’s created within a computer. This can be heard as much as anywhere on another of the album’s standout tracks, “Jardin”, which sits a melancholic, emotional piano composition underneath swirling atmospheres and ramping dynamics.
However, not every piece wrestles with a deep ambient fog, as tracks such as “Serpent”, “Shadow From Tartarus” and latecomer “The Lord’s Graffiti” demonstrate. Though they still retain an almost underwater quality about them, they tremble and attack with enough ferocity to snap you out of the blissful daze that the more abstract tracks put upon you.
“R.I.P” is perhaps better classified as a collection of electronic ambient works, rather than anything resembling a techno album. Actress’ album sounds more influenced by modern composers such as Steve Reich instead of techno producers such as Carl Craig, but even then, everything has been mangled and distorted to a point that the only sound you can truly here on the LP is Actress. And this is by no means a bad thing.
Out Now: Actress – R.I.P (Preview / Buy)
An early contender for one of the best albums of the year. 9/10