Actress’s ‘Splazsh’ [Honst Jons, 2010] was widely regarded as one of the best albums of the last ten years, and Darren Cunningham, to give him his full name, has just announced full details of his follow up. ‘R.I.P.’ will be out on Monday 20th April 2012. The press release is such a shining example that we’ve posted the entire thing below. A particular highlight is the revelation that the album is loosely based on Milton’s Paradise Lost and Jamie James’s Music Of the Spheres, and follows a biblical structure, beginning with the Ascension and ending with the writing on the wall.
Uriel’s Black Harp
Shadow From Tartarus
Tree Of Knowledge
Caves Of Paradise
The Lord’s Graffiti
Between sleep and the void lies the electronic interzone of Actress. Following the noted 2010 album Splazsh (voted number one in The Wire magazine’s Top 50 Releases Of The Year) South London producer Darren Cunningham returns with a suite of electronic laments, tone structures and dreamtime rhythms which all carry his unmistakable fingerprint. R.I.P. comprises fifteen tracks painstakingly crafted by Cunningham in his London studio over recent years, with a conceptual arc taking in death, life, sleep and religion. “I’m just an instrument,” Cunningham avers. “I’m completely dead when I write.”
Right from the debut album Hazyville (Werk Discs), Actress’s music has carried deep tinges and pock marks of London’s rave music heritage. But after the angular dynamics of Splazsh (Honest Jon’s), R.I.P. heads out into deep space. The rhythms and pulses are smudged or blurred, or are hinted at by their absence. 2-step garage is collided into gamelan, and freeform interludes explore microtonal spaces and imagined string instruments.
The fifteen chapters of R.I.P. begin with Ascension and the Book of Genesis and play out through through gardens, serpents and mythological caves. “When I feel I’m coming towards the end of the process I’ll buy some books related to the theme. So I started Milton’s Paradise Lost, started to re-read Jamie James’s The Music Of The Spheres. I wanted the movements to make sense scene-wise and chronologically.”
“In places the album is meant to drift,” notes Cunningham. R.I.P. moves back and forth between space and rhythm, probing the “boundaries in and of rest and peace.”
Appropriately for exploring the myths of Creation, the sounds Actress creates are completely sui generis. There are no soft synths or plug-ins, and instead he uses meticulous manual sound tinkering to create tones, tunings and textures. “It’s like painting with button and sliders,” he describes. “Melting and dripping, seeping yourself liquid into the machinery.” The ghosted rhythms and free tunings of these tracks live in a parallel universe to the conventional rigours of the dancefloor. Unlike the sterile sound spaces rendered in so much laptop sound-product, these tracks carry traces of the endless mouse strokes that made them. You feel the sweat and sinew of handmade construction. “I can’t explain how I made those tracks, it’s just impossible,” he says. “I have a hard time comprehending it myself sometimes.”
The album begins with the title track, a short tonal requiem for the dead, before drifting into another beatless meditation, the rippling minimalist structure of Ascending. Holy Water and Marble Plexus introduce rhythm, although these percussive tics could be equally sourced from sub-bass speaker stacks or marbles rolling around a bowl. Jardin and Serpent are origami-like constructions which orbit around what could be pizzicato strings or harps. Last-but-one is IWAAD, whose pulsing 4/4 rhythms and warm hits of low-end vibration hint at a return to the real.
R.I.P. underlines Actress’s reputation as one of the most eloquent voices to emerge from the sub-bass nexus of London dance music. His intuitive and original grasp of beats, textures and rhythm puts him on a parallel path to dance music innovators such as Drexciya, T++, Aphex Twin, Burial and Basic Channel. But the way he engages with electronic sound from first principles, realising his own self-contained sonic worlds, hints at less obvious kinships outside the dance music fraternity, with pioneers of homebrewed sound experiments such as Cabaret Voltaire, Pan Sonic and Oval. It moves the body but the sounds also tap into to something more intangible inside you; you dance, but also “slip/drift into another realm, probably without even realising.”