Actress – Ghettoville
[Note, the lines in italics, are all excerpts from the press release that came with our copy of the album.]
Spitting flames behind a white wall of silence.
Darren Cunningham’s Actress project is a difficult one to sum up, but undanceable dance music seems to handle it rather neatly. It has many of the same trappings of dance music, repetitive beats and sometimes even sounds that wouldn’t be out of place in an RnB tune (‘Rap’ comes to mind here). Yet none of these songs can expect regular plays at your local club. Cunningham has never shied away from making that challenges the ear, but on Ghettoville he has started openly embracing it.
Ghettoville is the bleached out and black tinted conclusion of the Actress image.
Ghettoville is a blisteringly dark album and has no fears in taking the listener on an intense journey. Lengthy tracks exhibit minimal willingness to change, even gradually, and one could accuse Actress of not using nearly enough sounds to make a full-length album interesting. This might however be missing the point, change is subtle and this style works well on a slowly morphing track such as ‘Corners’. The album’s sparseness isn’t always so successful however, with the following track, ‘Rims’, devolving into a boring lonesome slow kick-drum partway through the track. ‘Don’t’ is ten repetitions of what is effectively an eight second sample, with a moment of silence between each repetition. If this is Cunningham attempting to see how far he could possibly push his experimentalism whilst making interesting music, he does occasionally end up on the wrong side of the line.
The scripts now carry tears, the world has returned to a flattened state, and out through that window, the birds look back into the cage they once inhabited.
It should be noted that whilst the album is on the surface an incredibly serious piece of work, the idea must at least be entertained that Actress is to some extent having fun with his listeners. The absurdity of the press-release excerpts intertwined with this review are equally as important as their apocalyptic prophetic message. As much attention that will be lavished upon this album’s relentless gloom, the album does go on a gradual journey and whilst never cheery, the latter half of the album is far more palatable to the average listener then the treacherous opener ‘Forgiven’.
Four albums in and the notes and compositions no longer contain decipherable language.
The most interesting thing about Ghettoville and arguably its greatest success, is just how much of your attention it demands. Nowadays some music almost seems marketed as background noise, but it would take only the socially suicidal to try and have a party over such stark and uncomfortable music. Now that I’m finishing this review I don’t know if I’ll ever return to this album again. I can recognise the talent behind some fantastic songs such as ‘Gaze’, ‘Rap’, and ‘Rule’ but I don’t know when if ever I’d return and concentrate fully on such an impenetrable album.
R.I.P Music 2014.