IF ONE artist was going to send out a press release for their new record styled on the redacted copy of a government report it is Darren Cunningham, aka Actress.
Cryptic, obtuse, secretive and illusive, Cunningham has been the checkpoint of the techno/electronic border crossing for over a decade now. There have been seminal releases (2010’s Splazsh or 2014’s Ghettoville come to mind); boundary stretching multi-media projects, like the Steve Reich exploration Different Trains 1947; and high concept productions (the Stockhausen tribute opera Sin (x) in 2019). There is just one constant in the Actress creative push: you can predict the unpredictability.
Following the brief visit of “88”,a sneaky digital-only release in July for those that were paying attention, comes that coded announcement of Cunningham’s latest extravaganza, Karma And Desire, out October 23rd on Ninja Tunes.
You may already have tripped over the first preview single, “Walking Flames”, an ultra-deep immersion in nu-soul with Sampha on pristine vocals. Now comes further evidence of the album’s intention with a twin track release: “Loveless” (ft. Aura T-09), and “Angels Pharmacy” (ft. Zsela).
Of the two tracks “Loveless” is the more straightforward – if that can be said about any Actress music. It’s raw and sparse outsider house, stripped down to minimal piano chords, clipped vocal cut-ups (courtesy of LA rave leader Aura T-09), and a fundamental beat line. The elements carefully slide over each other, changing positions, sometimes moving out of line – an optical illusion in sound.
“Angels Pharmacy” goes more for intoxication. Depth-diving synth sequences and floating chords on repeat, the atmosphere seeps around Zsela’s intimate, unsettling whispers. Ruffled only by a section of nervous double rhythms this is interference at its most intense, fearless music just as you would expect from Darren Cunningham/Actress.
Actress’s Karma And Desire will be released by Ninja Tune on digital, CD and 2xLP formats on October 23rd; various merch bundles are available, including the cassette of “88”, Actress facemasks, &c. To order yours and/or peruse the bundles, visit the Ninja Tune store.