Alongside the likes of the similarly enigmatic Zomby, UK-based electronic musician Actress (real name Darren Cunningham) has seen his profile rise at a stratospheric rate over the last six years, casting an unpredictable presence whilst also carving out a niche that’s distinctly his own. While 2012’s preceding ‘R.I.P.’ album saw him unleashing some of his most intricate and glittery productions yet though, this fourth album ‘Ghettoville’ (his first for Ninja Tune) is likely to offer something of a confusing comedown for many of his listeners. Cunningham himself has hinted that this may be the final Actress album, even going so far as to describe ‘Ghettoville’ as â€œwhere the demands of writing found the artist slumped and reclined, devoid of any soul, acutely aware of the simulated prism that required breakout.â€
Whatever the case, there’s a decayed, faded and lurching feel to much of the 18 tracks collected here. ‘Forgiven’ might as well be titled ‘forbidding’, opening things with a doomy lurching crawl of slowed down deathly rhythms and ominous swells that calls to mind Throbbing Gristle more than anything else. Elsewhere, the restless and frustrated sounding ‘Street Corp’ meanwhile devolves things down to a crackling repetitive pulse, as murmuring bass tones float against eerie hisses that could easily be breathing or radio static. Occasionally though, there’s a rare moment of fleeting beauty to be found amidst the darkness, with ‘Our’ sending delicately crystalline notes floating against clicking rhythms and stuttered soul vocals to hypnotic effect, before the more fluid ‘Skyline’ suggests the sound of a distant club’s heaving sound system bleeding in through the walls, only to be gradually overtaken by shearing layers of industrial noise. Whilst impressive, ‘Ghettoville’ often feels more like some impenetrable puzzle that’s been thrown in the listener’s path to be solved than anything else, and that’s probably exactly the way Cunningham wants it. Watch this space.