Darren Cunningham considers himself an instrument, a conduit for the music that emanates from his psychic channels and out through the speakers. Initially releasing music via his own excellent Werkdiscs label in the early noughties, awareness of the sound of Actress has taken a definite leap from his initial presence as an underground dancefloor phenomenon to almost being a household name in electronica terms, releasing lately for Honest Jon’s and Ninja Tune and remixing the likes of Radiohead and Panda Bear.
His 2012 album R.I.P. brought an army of new ears to his music. An all-hardware production based on Milton’s Paradise Lost and consequently existential in mood, the album showcases Cunningham’s love of taking populist musical worlds and dragging them away from the dancefloor to something more explorative. As Pitchfork described it, “Rhythms, basslines, and melodies slip in and out of line with each other. Comparatively straightforward, house-oriented tracks like “Shadow From Tartarus” are situated next to murk and ambience like “Tree of Knowledge”. The emphasis here, though, is on “comparative”: Even R.I.P.’s steady 4/4 tracks sound grimy and deconstructed. But there’s something almost flirtatious in the way he lets the sounds worm around in the dark, looking to hook up with something firm. When they do, it’s both mechanical and mystical, like watching a sculpture cut from raw stone.”
Actress is now a major name in UK electronica, his music more profound with every release. And yes, despite all the above, you still won’t be able to keep your feet still.