Archive for r.i.p

Music Review: Actress – R.I.P (2012)

Posted in 2012, Music, Review with tags , , , , , on April 20, 2012 by liffeymusic

Many artists have multiple levels of depth — say, an easily noticeable coating of production gloss with a more edifying layer of songwriting beneath for those who choose to dwell longer.  In the case of Actress (aka Darren Cunningham, London-based producer and founder of the Werk Disks label) , these layers are separated by a rather daunting chasm; it’s quite easy to nod your head to the rigorous Maze, or the space-born Purple Splazsh (both from Splazsh, 2010), but neither are readily catchy enough to engrave themselves into a listener’s mind without their knowing consent.  There’s nothing so convoluted about the music that the inner workings can’t be sensed to some degree even by the uninitiated, but Splazsh intimidated with rigidly uniform beats, which were both a source of tactile immediacy and a stern palisade that blocked entry to the depths of the world within to many saunterers by.

R.I.P removes those bars in favor of a pane of glass, through which one might peer and from a distance observe a foreign plane of existence, one with ant-like order and business mindedness.  Sounds trickle, mesh and reflect, sometimes with strict purpose and sometimes seemingly at random, like the colors of a holographic picture which you can never quite seem to view from the perfect angle.  It’s by far his most abstract work, which oddly enough causes a rift in the expected structures in a way that allows for a shifted point of view and a deeper, more fascinating glimpse of Cunningham’s work as a whole.  This new-found transparency may be shocking to those accustomed to his old work, but it puts a new perspective on the multi-faceted world of engineering that he’s methodically revealed over the past few years.  This brings up a distinctive characteristic of Actress’s utopia — he never gives away whether he’s discovering it right along with us; if he is, he’s taking it all in as though he accepts this new residence with inhuman levels of contentedness.  As a result, we never feel that anything is underdeveloped or out of place.  This is how the music was found to be.

With the heavily techno-derived beats now largely eroded, what’s left are techno songs trapped in an ambient body.  You can clearly see the veins below the skin, but as Cunningham casts various lights upon the flesh, cools and warms scatter beneath the surface, abstracting all perception with a spellbinding effect that, when fully taken in, refuses the listener permission to look away.  This amoebic layer of flesh only occasionally thins enough for the club-ready beats to claw out, and even then they remain dripping in alien innards so thick, they defy such a utilitarian mindset.

New listeners might observe that these tracks don’t seem to have a destination or possess any story-like sense of progression.  Many of them simply fade in, relay an idea or image, and fade back out.  And that’s precisely the point.  They are not tales, and there is no agenda.  They are artifacts, fragmented viewports whose very existence indicate that there is a story to be uncovered, but will require of the listener careful-minded reconstruction.  They do not exist to move you.  You exist to project movement into them.

Does that makes this a masterpiece, as many might be eager to declare?  No — or at least, it’s not meant to be.  It’s simply the next step in a spiritual exercise for Cunningham, and for us, the third window into an electronic psyche that pulsates with a life as devoid of recognizable emotion as it is filled with soul-searching duty.  It doesn’t try to lead you anywhere, because it doesn’t even care that you’re there.  You might very easily walk away and remember only the fact that a novelty candy shop exists, or you may linger at the glass a while longer.  There’s an endlessly observable civilization carrying on inside.  Study it.  Absorb it.  Occupy it.

9.6/10