WE ARE LOVING: ACTRESS - R.I.P.
Story by Adam Steel
Photo courtesy of Actress
Over the years, many tone-deaf critics have lumped London-based artist Darren Cunningham, aka Actress, into some pretty outrageous categories: grime, art house, dubstep, industrial, and IDM (that’s Intelligent Dance Music to you neophytes). While the artist himself has described his sound as “R&B concrete” (awesome!!), the proper generalization may be a soupcon sampling from all of the above.
R.I.P. starts off mechanical and robotic (“Ascending”, “Marble Plexus”), eventually warming up to a crescendo of romanticism and, dare I say, movability (“Serpent”; “Shadow from Tartarus”) before coming full-circle and diving back under the murky water. It’s a frustrating record to pigeonhole, but if you’re smart enough, you’ll get past it and enjoy it for what it offers and for what it lacks.
The keyword is contrast, given Cunningham’s effective and structured use of soft and hard sounds, straddling the confines of sleepy ambient and hard-hitting techno like a handful of Valium washed down with a big iced coffee—you know, like that gut-buster size from Starbucks that isn’t even on the menu?
Most of the album’s standout tracks could sit comfortably among those on Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works, 1985-1992 (1992) or Boards of Canada’s Music Has the Right to Children (1998): dark and menacing, yet harmonious and eerily reminiscent of a bygone era—not necessarily your era, but frighteningly familiar all the same.
R.I.P. is available on UK label Honest Jon’s.