Release Date: May 4, 2015
Record label: !K7
Genre(s): Electronic, Techno, Club/Dance, Experimental Techno, Left-Field House, Ambient Techno
Listening to a mix by Actress is a lot like watching a Satoshi Kon film; it sets the tone early, bashes you in the face with how jarring it comes and goes from the initial start, and then by the end you realize how thoroughly engrossed you were the entire time. In this case, while listening to Darren Cunningham's irreverent take on a series such as DJ-Kicks, I was mesmerized, yet always aware that things might go awry at any moment—Cunningham has chosen not to emulate the effortless mixing of previous selectors in the series. Instead, he's done what he does best in this medium, which is to choose brilliant tracks that would provide contrast and/or comparatively enhance the listening experience.
A year after he released his fourth Actress album, Darren Cunningham adds his own volume to !K7's long-running DJ-Kicks series. Mostly experimental techno in nature, its selections jump across years and decades, highlighted by the likes of Autechre, Moon B, and Reel by Real. Keeping with series custom, Cunningham incorporates an exclusive production of his own.
Darren Cunningham, whose last album as Actress was distributed alongside a surreal press release/manifesto with the closing line 'R.I.P Music 2014', has always projected something of an ‘artistic’ image of himself. He’s been uncompromising and difficult in interviews, released conceptual albums and subsequently earned praised as one of techno’s foremost experimentalists. But whilst this might be true on some level – in that he’ll often approach music from an unconventional angle, intellectualise it, or draw on disparate, unexpected sources of inspiration – it’s never felt like the whole story.
Wolverhampton UK-based musician Actress (a.k.a. Darren Cunningham) has made a name for himself as one of the most unorthodox techno artists of recent years and is at the helm of the 49th instalment of !K7's venerable DJ Kicks series. At its best, DJ Kicks is both entertaining and informative, but if there ever was a slight knock on some of the volumes in the series, it's that they have been a tad predictable, allowing the artist/curator to remain in the respective confines of their genre, going deep into the crates for sure to unearth some gems, but never venturing out of their comfort zone.Cunningham avoids this with his hour-long mix.
Darren Cunningham is an odd choice to helm a mix CD. The Londoner's form-evading musical ideas make for interesting records, but DJ sets don't always benefit from so much coloring outside the lines. Hard cuts, disorienting tempo shifts and spotty mixing are common in Cunningham's sets, and he wears them proudly on his DJ-Kicks, as if they were one-of-a-kind designer outfits.
Afforded his own installment in the long-running DJ-Kicks series, Darren Cunningham (aka Actress) sticks largely to sputtering, skittering tracks that carry none of the sense of existential dread and strict avoidance of expectations that have permeated his own recent recordings. Instead, these tracks from a variety of artists across a rather broad expanse of decades offer up a slightly more straightforward, occasionally left-of-center, take on experimental dance music that never truly comes together. It’s all pleasant enough, but it largely lacks the appeal of Actress’ own recordings.