A Strange Trek Through Actress’ Mind
AZD is an album that is hard to describe. It is minimal, yet gaudy. At times it feels soulless like a machine, and at others it conveys feelings that words could never express. On the new record, Actress (aka Darren J. Cunningham) takes us through an emotional trip. Each song is packed with feelings that he uses to create lush soundscapes. It is off-putting and strange at times, but that is part of the experience – its confusing nature, full of twists and turns, adds to the mystery and allure of the album. Overall, AZD will definitely make the listener feel something, whether it be awe, aversion, or confusion.
Actress’s latest album is somewhat split between different styles. Cunningham is great at delivering hard-hitting techno tracks to incite dancing, but also thrives at creating slower, more contemplative tracks that put listeners into a certain state of mind or mood. Songs like “X22RME” and “Runner” embody this techno side of the album with their swirling synths and steady beats; but they still have a strange flavor that Cunningham has injected throughout the album. “Runner,” in particular, has a bit of an ’80s sound that is enjoyable and differentiates it from other tracks. “Falling Rizlas,” which comes right after “Runner,” is a huge change of pace from that song. It is slow and even somewhat soothing. It sounds like a futuristic lullaby, yet one can hear a tinge of sadness in its calming progression. In contrast to this sadness, one can hear happiness later on “Visa.” With a dreamy melody that sounds like a complex old-school video game track, its upbeat and blissful tone leave the album off on a good note.
AZD is an album that may take a while to process, but it is definitely worthwhile if listeners allow the work to take them on its journey. The songs will grow on them once they become better acquainted with Actress’s sound. That is not to say that this album is always enjoyable. There are definitely abrasive sections that may make one want to stop listening, such as on “Faure In Chrome. This song boasts screeching beeps and howling violins that are somewhat jarring. However, on further examination, the song conveys feeling powerfully as it embodies sadness and confusion. That’s something that Cunningham always seems to get right whether the track is ultimately enjoyable or not: he knows how to give each of his songs an identity and unique feeling. Cunningham is doing a great job right now and he should continue to create inspired and uncompromising work. Many artists attempt to get the balance that Actress has struck with this album, but most fail. That’s why this project is worth a listen.