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Actress - Hazyville


Despite having released records since 2004 for Werk, it’s taken a while for label owner Darren Cunningham to emerge with his first album. The label has built up a strong and quite unique style, merging dubstep with scratchy electronics and noise over a number of exceptional releases. Cunningham’s Actress moniker encapsulates that sound aesthetic, but the influence of more traditional house and techno is more apparent here.

“Hazyville” is a journey through murky soundscapes and half-lit interludes, with a cloud of abstraction cast over it. Beneath the encrusted samples and noise is an undeniable element of funk that never lets up over the 11 tracks. This is obfuscated house, processed and polished off with a sheen of woolly studio skill that puts him alongside such audio artisans like Theo Parrish, Jan Jelinek or Spencer Kincey. The opening track “Again the Addiction” reminds me of the latter, an insistent Chicago beat lacerating a submerged melodic trope that puts its head up amongst a chatter of sampled voices every now and again. It’s the sort of deranged funk that brings back the idea and wonder of vintage Chicago sound so clearly.

The opening track sets the tone for the rest of the album, and if there is a strong criticism to be made, it’s that Cunningham rarely deviates from this formula, stretching out 3 to 6 minute rhythm tracks with the same cyclical melodic ideas. However this is offset by the sheer variety and to my ears, a welcome deviation from the strong, crisp production that so many house producers are fond of. Cunningham dwells in a world of half-finished samples that hiccup and stutter their way through tracks, bass that often distorts and rhythms that slump their way towards their finish, “Mincin’” being the best example of this. “Crushed” is perhaps the most polished track, sounding not unlike an unholy union of Chez Damier and Theo Parrish, whilst “I can’t forgive You” flickers its way over a sinister Prefuse73 style beat.

Whilst it’s hard not to hear the many influences on this album, there are plenty of ideas that are flourishing here, and for fans of Werk Discs other output, this shows a deviation from their normal sound. Cunningham clearly has an ear for funk, and one hopes that he can start to add a little more quantity to the undoubted quality he can produce.

Toby Frith

Reader Comments (1)

One of the albums of the (last) year.

January 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCarlin

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