Even when filed down to its most inviting moments, English artist Darren Cunningham’s catalog as Actress has often been full of drama and generated lots of heat, his work in experimental techno equally capable of dubby smolders (Karma & Desire) and pure house flame (R.I.P., AZD). Following the release earlier this year of “AZD SURF,” a collaborative single with Mount Kimbie, Actress closes out 2022 with Dummy Corporation, his first true EP since Grey Over Blue in 2013.
The four new songs here (along with two shorter edits) feel like an effortless insertion into his oeuvre, and yet they suggest a rarely heard focus on particularly soft sounds for big rooms. The opening title track is a 19-minute epic that starts out with a metallic echo before descending into a calming throb of bass and deep melody so subtle that it fades almost to silence halfway through. It’s as if Actress is paying tribute here to other odysseys in the ambient house and ambient dub spaces—The Orb’s “Blue Room,” for example, or the Gas library. It alone is worth the price of admission.
The synthetic bell and string patches of “Futur Spher Techno Version” feel suited for closing time/sunrise playlists, turning up the volume and the BPMs yet maintaining an air of playfulness. The other two new tracks here find Actress dropping in more aggressive elements (junglist bass wobble in “Fragments of a Butterfly’s Face,” swift 4/4 drum patterns in “Dream”) contrasted by a lot of softer lines that cushion their blow and stoke listeners’ curiosity. Far from a late-year throwaway release or a space-filling novelty, Dummy Corporation is the real deal, able to get people interested in what came from Actress before and excited about what he’ll do next.
Label: Ninja Tune
Adam Blyweiss is associate editor of Treble. A graphic designer and design teacher by trade, Adam has written about music since his 1990s college days and been published at MXDWN and e|i magazine. Based in Philadelphia, Adam has also DJ’d for terrestrial and streaming radio from WXPN and WKDU.