Rumours speculating whether British producer Actress, born Darren Cunningham, had retired after the release of his last album ‘Ghettoville’, have been to put to rest with the return of the illusive musician on ‘AZD’. An anagram of his own nickname ‘Daz’, the album is Cunningham’s fifth album under the Actress moniker. What he delivers on this record is a perplexing dreamlike journey, which similar to that of an anagram, shuffles your perspective on electronic music and how it can be constructed or moulded.
As the album artwork suggests, chrome is a central theme on ‘AZD’. Quoting from his Bandcamp page, chrome is described “both as a reflective surface to see the self in, and as something that carves luminous voids out of any colour and fine focuses white and black”. The first few tracks on the album are reminiscent of the classic Actress sound, found on previous records such as ‘R.I.P.’ and ‘Ghettoville’. ‘AZD’ begins with a popping synth dancing around on top of some piano chords, before launching into the second track ‘UNTITLED 7’ where layers of strings and uncompromising synths build, before a bass drum is released and kicks through the mix.
‘CYN’, is certainly one of the most interesting and unique tracks on the album. On this track, Cunningham utilises several vocal samples over a beat that evolves from a hip-hop influenced off-beat distorted rhythm to a more stable techno style beat in the second half of the track. Interesting other-worldly synth pads provide the perfect bedding for this stand out track.
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The album progresses into a more dance friendly section, with ‘X22RME’ and ‘RUNNER’ providing some hypnotic rhythms to get lost in. Another real eye opening moment from the album comes on ‘FAURE IN CHROME’, where the vibe is completely transformed. Stemming from Cunningham’s collaboration with the London Contemporary Orchestra, a rendition of ‘Faure’s Requiem’ fades in, before a mangled electronic synth and interference slowly entwines itself and runs through the spectrum covered by the orchestra. Although this is a truly unique track, and a great demonstration of experimentation, it does not quite have the same appeal as the rest of the album.
Cunningham has produced a brilliant dark journey through a world of chrome as relentless popping synth work and entrancing drum patterns characterise much of the album. ‘AZD’ can be described as nothing short of supremely unique, with the eerie radiance that the album gives off, allowing for the listener to become completely lost in Cunningham’s own world.
‘AZD’ is out now via Ninja Tune.