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Smalltown Supersound

Actress - Statik

Actress - Statik

Regular price £28.00 GBP
Regular price Sale price £28.00 GBP
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Label: Smalltown Supersound – STS428
Format: Vinyl, LP, Poster
Country: Norway
Released: Jun 7, 2024
Genre: Electronic
Style: Ambient, Experimental, Techno, Dub

Within a year of ‘LXXXVIII’ for Ninja Tune comes ‘Statik’, the 10th album from Wolverhampton’s retired football protégé and ex-VHS technician Darren Cunningham, known to the world as Actress.

Whilst shrouding empirical processes and esoteric, yet deeply personal inspiration points in weed plumes and wry grins, it cannot be overstated how far Cunningham has transmogrified the DNA of black futurism in electronic music over the last 20 years. Releasing early works through his own Thriller and Werk Discs imprints and epochal pre-Ninja Tune works ‘Splazsh’ and ‘R.I.P.’ on Honest Jon’s, ‘Statik’ has startlingly emerged on legendary indefinable Norwegian label Smalltown Supersound.

In the afterglow of ‘LXXXVIII’s aloof R’n’B pulses and coded vocal swagger, framed by an inexplicable aesthetic of 80s computer chess imagery, ‘Statik’ appears tacitly through the illuminated fog and beckons us into the refractive cornices of Cunningham’s inextricably visual architectures.

Silvery monochromatic cover art of a crashed family estate marshed in shrubbery, complex synthetic matter finding stasis in organic containment, track titles forgoing stoned nonsequiturs for oblique environmental references - all nods to a furtive immersion in the natural world, fostering Cunningham’s most peaceable and warmly intuitive work in years.

To commence, ‘Hell’ throws a psych out track title at us, which in honesty pressed me to steel myself to hear while it eventually came on quietly and slowly. Hissing with faded spite and mournful production trickery, melodically unresolved - more like the lowest edge of purgatory. ‘My Ways’ sponges away some of the dread in a sort of 21st Century subway muzak loop, fading away quicker than we can grip it, before the fragrant and welcoming melodies of ‘Rainlines’ and ‘Ray’ cavort and crackle in filtered sunlight, joyfully bringing some of this collection’s scant higher tempos into focus.

Elsewhere in the second half, ‘Dolphin Spray’s checkered 8-bit mid-pacing and the hoarse mistings of ‘Doves Over Atlantis’ bathe in an articulate simplicity, subsumed by an essence of perhaps watching the surface of water for an untracked period or tunneling somewhere without a destination.

Texturally, ‘Statik’ follows on from the understated piano minimalism and xeroxed trip-hop holograms of ‘Karma & Desire’ (2020) - a brittle and firey sketchbook meshing more with ‘Silver Cloud’ or the gentlest moments of ‘R.I.P.’ (2012) to push as far from the beat encryptions of his rhythm-work opus ‘AZD’ (2017) as we’ve heard. Whilst on the topic of Cunningham’s catalogue, the Ninja Tune fuck-you-debut of ‘Ghettoville’ remains a curious and divisive outlier, abstractly distilling the self-proclaimed ‘R’n’B concrète’ ethos which permeates his canon - an insane gem.

Considering it alongside ‘Statik’s immediacy and press statements around banging it out in flow states, both recordings fascinatingly depict an obsessive priority in process and execution; allowing creativity streams to simply flow, with nothing else in mind other than making it sound like only Actress could have dreamed it.

In a macro sense, Cunningham’s undeniable firepower is that he achieves this, in virtually every recording and once again on ‘Statik’. Even where core references become crystal clear across his discography (‘Innovator’-era Derrick May, Terrence Dixon’s ‘From The Far Future’ series, Kenny Larkin 90s 12”s, Larry Heard’s Fingers Inc., Arvo Pärt solemnity), a tune is instantly recognisable as an Actress tune - whether it’s sweating a club audience at 4/4, breathing in and out for 5 minutes with just three sonic elements or keeping people waiting for Beyoncé to take the stage with ‘Falling Rizlas’ on endless loop.

Review by Simon J Karis

A1. Hell
A2. Static
A3. My Ways
A4. Rainlines
A5. Ray
A6. Six
B1. Cafe Del Mars
B2. Dolphin Spray
B3. System Verse
B4. Doves Over Atlantis
B5. Mellow Checx

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