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Actress (Darren Cunningham)

Updated on April 27, 2012

Actress (electronic dance music)

Actress is the alias of Darren Cunningham, a London based electronic dance music producer. Mr. Cunningham, originally a professional footballer for West Brom and hailing from Wolverhampton, released Actress’s first record, the No Trick 12”, on Mr. Cunningham’s own Werk Discs label. His sophomore effort, 2008’s Hazyville, was also released on the Werk Discs label and was well received by both critics and fans of electronic and experimental music.

In 2010, Actress released the critically acclaimed Splazsh on the Honest Jon’s label. Actress’s association with Honest Jon’s continued with the 2012 record, R.I.P. Like many electronic musicians, Actress’s work is difficult to categorize, but it is generally agreed upon to follow the conventions of house music, techno, and dubstep. Elements of electro, 80’s synth and funk, and noise rock are also contained in Actress’s work. Beatportal described Actress as “house and hip-hop beats dissolving into a spray of bits and tape hiss.” It is that synthesis of lo-fi, low-tech and polished, digital perfection that encapsulate much of Actress’s sound.

Actress’s last two full length records have received the most attention and critical praise, with the notoriously prickly Pitchfork giving 2010’s Splazsh a rating of 8.3 and 2012’s R.I.P a rating of 8.5 in reviews by Andy Battaglia and Mike Powell, respectively. Battaglia cites Splazsh’s “formal and seriousness of rigor” as significant, noting that all of the tracks occur in a clear sense of order and progression while Powell downplays the “build-and-release” nature of track listings and instead mentions the overall atmosphere of the record, “which hovers over the bones of the music like some sick gas cloud,” as its most significant feature.

Cunningham himself says of Actress, “I want to make cool, classical stuff for a modern generation.” Listening to 2010’s “Always Human,” off the Splazsh record, Cunningham’s juxtaposition of “cool” and “classical” is both instantly recognizable and alien, and it is this mixture that has become a hallmark of Actress’s sound.

Actress is slated to play the upcoming Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit, Michigan on May 26-28, 2012. Cunningham is set to begin working on his next project, the upcoming “Ghettoville,” which he anticipates releasing under the Actress alias in 2012. He describes it as a sequel to 2008’s Hazyville. Recording is set to occur in Jamaica, where Mr. Cunningham plans to “see what happens.”

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