If ever there was a bandwagon worth jumping on, its the one that is being pulled by Actress’ new album Splazsh. Werk Disc’s supremo Darren Cunningham’s latest outing as Actress has been accumulating huge and fully deserved praise from all over, Fact giving a rare 5 out of 5.

It is a perfectly crafted little silk purse of an electronic album, gathering in a huge range of dance and experimental musical styles, all reinterpreted with a craftsman’s care and attention to detail. The distorted Chicago, Detroit techno and garage references are still there from previous album Hazyville, but the palette has broadened into acid, kosmiche, funk and noise.

Lost is probably the Actress track I’ve been aware of the longest, originally appearing the same year as Hazyville on a limited edition Various Production 7″, where it was released as an Actress remix of a VP track. It was also a highlight of the Various Production remix album Versus. Here it has been fully appropriated by Cunningham (it was always a total reworking of the original), the haunting neo-folk turned into a house-infused wonky bass groove. It is an absolute cracker.

Reminiscent of Drexciya’s use of light and dark, tension and release, Cunningham sits tight little wound-up number’s like Get Ohn next to the chirpy US Garage of Always Human. These contrasts keeps the album energised from start to finish. Get Ohn is a coil of abstract 2-step under such tension it will cause your tendons to contract until your fists and teeth clench involuntarily and you find yourself vibrating quite violently. Thankfully, Maze allows you to unfurl; a departure into expansive kosmiche territory, with bleepy computer game effects contrasting the sombre backing synth. Purple Splazsh revisits Prince-era pop in a way which wouldn’t be out of place alongside Ducktails, Rangers or elsewhere in the hypnagogic pop canon.

The album transforms from clean, fresh garage and house sounds into much murkier territory as it develops. Wrong Potion is dense weave of noise, thumping bass and gamelan overtones. Supreme Cunnilingus is a chaotic mulch of vibrating bleeps and tones, according to Cunningham representing the noise of a computer performing some oral pleasure. It sounds painful. The computerized lacerations intensify in the awesome closing duo of Kettle Man and Casanova. Kettle Man teams crunching synth and fizzing effects with a perfectly blooOopy bass, a signature sound Actress has perfected. By Casanova we are in definite Autechre territory, reminiscent of the sound on Oversteps, and the sort of finale that that album deserved.

Don’t get me wrong, Hazyville was a cracking wee album, but the variety and depth to Splazsh came as a bit of a surprise to me. This is an album that doesn’t feel the need to align itself with any particular scene, but adopts the magpie’s approach and thieves all the shiny items from a wide range of electronic styles; giving them a good buff in the process.

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