When Darren Cunningham, a.k.a. Actress released a 12-inch of two tracks at the tail end of last year, the two vastly different pieces of music gave little suggestion as to the nature of the long promised follow-up full length to 2010’s fêted Splaszh. ‘Rainy Dub/Faceless’ came a full nine months after his previous release, a similarly schizophrenic 12-inch consisting of the of glitchy, restless techno of ‘Harrier Attk’ and the slo-mo hip hop beat of ‘Gershwin’.
Like his genre-dodging homeboys Burial and James Blake, England's Darren Cunningham, a.k.a. Actress, makes electronic dance music full of surface-noise nostalgia and bass-heavy, cybernetic soul. Where Burial focuses on vibe depth and Blake on dub-carved songcraft, Actress takes a more ADHD approach, jumping between ideas and emptying the pantry into his abstract LPs.
To paraphrase Nietzsche: Suppose truth is an actress — what then? Then, truth is an art, a role played for an audience of philosophers, or, as Nietzsche imagines in The Gay Science, a sort of striptease: Life’s “greatest charm” is its teasing play of appearances, putting “a gold-embroidered veil of lovely potentialities over itself, promising, resisting, modest, mocking, sympathetic, seductive. ” In this “play of truth,” Jacques Lacan would later write, “truth teaches her lovers her secret: that it is in hiding that she offers herself to them most truly. ” Likewise, we come to know Actress’ songs on R.
R.I.P.'s infrequent flirtations with the dancefloor should not surprise those who checked Darren Cunningham's post-Splazsh singles. Despite being issued on 12" vinyl, "Harrier ATTK" and "Rainy Dub" would have evacuated any floor within a few seconds. None of the four tracks from those releases reappears on R.I.P., but they foreshadowed this hourlong album's completely abstract, mostly ambient composition.
Actress isn't your regular techno producer, if you can call him that at all. The founder of Werk Discs has flitted between electro, hip-hop, house and techno over the past eight years, finding something close to a home in the smoke-filled recesses of some lost Underground Resistance bunker. He's an artist whose restless, unforgivingly manipulated music is just as suited to soundtracking installations as it is bellowing out into a nightclub.
Darren Cunningham is one of those dance music producers who has spent most of his career moving away from the dancefloor. The London-based artist's first two albums as Actress, 2008's Hazyville and 2010's Splazsh, sounded like mid-1980s house and techno collaged together and played on a radio from under the freeway. Half of his newest, R.I.P., doesn't even have beats.
New Musical Express (NME) - 80 Based on rating 4/5
The democratisation of the music-making process has been a curse as well as a blessing. Dance music today can sometimes resemble a field of thousands upon thousands of identikit laptop jockeys, each one running the same computer programs, fiddling with the same pre-sets, strip-mining the same exposed seams of clubland history. There is no new thing.
Despite his album title’s implications, Actress, a.k.a. Darren Cunningham, is not dead. In fact, he’s more alive than ever. Always a unique and talented artist, he’s taken his sound to another level with R.I.P. While he had become known mostly for grimy techno, he’s always been one to ….
The British producer Darren Cunningham, operating under the Actress name, is known for making cerebral electronic music. For his latest album, R.I.P., he was not about to lighten up. On the contrary, R.I.P. pushes Cunningham’s subtle yet heady sound into the realms of the mythological and the Biblical; of, as the title suggests, life and death itself.
Review Summary: Heavy is the head that carries the crown of burdenIt’s not an entirely alien concept for an artist to release their defining work well into an established career, that landmark that unwittingly serves as the bar by which all past and future releases will find themselves judged against. What is a little strange however is to see an artist attempt to define themselves beyond the obvious and immediate opportunity. And while Darren Cunningham might not be as long in the tooth as the maturity and organic atmosphere of his music would seemingly indicate, he’s certainly been around long enough for us to have had enough time to at least try and understand him.
The ghosts of shuttered Detroit nightclubs still sputter on South Londoner Darren Cunningham's most recent collection of inspired, genre-beating vignettes under the Actress pseudonym, only they find a deeper resonance within R.I.P.'s immersive and engaging universe than on 2010's Splazsh or 2008's Hazyville. Setting the mood immediately are a trio of bleary, cinematic opening tracks that serve as the premise for a greater conceptual arc that takes cues from Genesis, musicological tome Music of the Spheres and Milton's Paradise Lost. R.I.P.'s soundscapes are rendered with a pleasantly weird cacophony of left-field sampling and deeply textured sound design.
Darren Cunningham recently performed at the Tate Modern, where he played a live set inspired by the intricate dot matrices of Yayoi Kusama, the Japanese artist whose work is currently the subject of a retrospective at the London gallery. It was a smart pairing: Cunningham's music as Actress has become increasingly enamoured with similar themes as Kusama's work. R.I.P, Cunningham's third album and follow-up to 2010's enigmatic and brilliant Splazsh, is fascinated by microscopic detail and the laying bare of patterns that emerge at the molecular level.
Bennie Green A lot of the music made by the trombonist Bennie Green (1923-77) suggests that the idea of discrete aesthetic eras in jazz has been oversold. He doesn’t fit easily into one. In the 1950s he played plush, sliding, unconstricted, just-on-the-edge-of-shouting trombone lines among some musicians who were otherwise concerned with getting their sound tighter and spikier.
Dancefloor dynamics remain remote; but Actress beguiles with uncommon production nous. Chris Power 2012 Actress’ Splazsh was one of 2010’s best albums, Darren Cunningham’s collisional production style creating extraordinary hybrids of everything from Detroit techno and jack house to 2-step garage, EBM and funk-rock. Since then there have been some excellent original 12”s as well as remixes of Kodiak, Panda Bear and Radiohead (as Thriller Houseghost, with Lukid) that further underline Cunningham’s ability to plot his signature post-genre course through the electronic music landscape.One key to deciphering that signature is a fundamental instability, one that’s generated either by restlessness or uncertainty.