Actress: Silver cloud EP
Similar Artists: Terrence Dixon, Autechre
Genre Detroit Techno, Unclassifiable
Darren Cunningham is one of the few geniuses in crafting abstract techno. His last two full lengths, Splazsh and R.I.P have proved to be masterpieces, holding up through hundreds of listens. If you aren’t aware already, Actress crafts sullen, often monotonous (but not in a bad way) grayscale techno with a Detroit edge. However, such a plethora of different names and phrases have been used in attempt to describe his genre that it is better to refer to his style as unclassifiable. His use of jagged edges and bleak tone invoke dark cities of towering skyscrapers and endless subway systems, but in a much different light than Burial. Where Burial’s music uses club culture aesthetics, you would never hear this music in a dance environment unless the owner wanted to get everyone out of the building. These songs represent urban decay rather than urban sprawl.
This 3 track EP is yet another puzzle in Actress’ Discography. “Silver Cloud” is his first release since R.I.P and is in preparation for his next full length “Ghettoville”, which is due out later this year. He certainly hasn’t gotten any more accessible during his time off, as this is without a doubt his most difficult release yet. While Actress’ output could never be called fruitful, Silver Cloud is based on endlessly repeating structures and underlying themes that don’t present themselves for countless listens. It’s hazier and more opaque even than he was on his appropriately titled debut “Hazyville”.
“Voodoo Posse Chronic Illusion” starts with a disgruntled keyboard melody and an ultra lo-fi drum pattern that both seem disabled to the point where they would never be able to carry on for an entire song (no less a 12 minute one). Of course, they manage to, and once the pieces come into correspondence with each other, the song could easily last a whole lot longer. One person in a message board joked that these songs should all go on for at least an hour, joking aside, there is truth in this statement. Once the elegiac harp progression is introduced at the three minute mark, the song enters a state of perpetual continuity. Out of all the tracks here, this is the one you could imagine putting in a loop and listening to for a whole day, almost like a Wolfgang Voigt or William Basinski track.
“Floating in Ecstasy” is more menacing in tone due to its gun cock percussive element and ambience that resembles heavy breathing. Later in the song, a dread induced vocal sample comes into play that seems to be repeating “go away mean zombie”. It’s one of the darkest works in this artist’s discography for sure, and I can’t imagine what sort of schizoid mood I would have to be in to understand its true meaning. Final track, “Silver Cloud Dream Come True” is similarly infuriating. With obsessively repeating drum programming, samples of breaking glass and an ethereal bell chime, Darren creates a mood somewhere between serenity and nothingness, leaning towards the latter.
This release ends up being a particularly murky representative of Actress’ style. The production shows off Darren’s skills as a producer, but we were already aware of his supremacy in craft. All these songs are covered with such a dusty coat of paint that even through repeated listens, it can be difficult to grasp what truly is going on. Through full lengths, Darren Cunningham has been able to convey moods of vibrancy and excitement; it is a cliche, but his past albums have felt like journeys. This EP emits no such feeling, and its destination is ultimately nowhere. Actress is way ahead of the curve in electronic music, but getting to know this release on a personal level feels like a chore.
1.) Voodoo Posse Chronic Illusion*
2.) Floating in Ecstasy
3.) Silver Cloud Dream Come True
*- Track Highlight