There’s a mystique which envelops AZD, the latest release from Actress. It’s a record which has really captured my ear with its subtle grooves and mysterious vibes.
Actress is the pseudonym of Darren Cunningham, an English producer and deejay whose approach to electronic music hearkens back to techno, house, and ambient music of the ’80s and early ’90s, and listening to his sixth release, AZD (pronounced ‘Azid’, an anagram of Cunningham’s childhood nickname ‘Daz’), I’m reminded of artists like Derrick May and early Aphex Twin. AZD sounds like club music, except isolated, quieted, probed, and recontextualized. There are moments on this listen which sounds more like something you’d hear played by a sentient AI on a lonely space station light years away instead of in a club. It’s danceable, but it also very…distant, foreign, and forging a path into the unknown. It’s a fascinating trip, almost as if HAL 9000 started deejaying the Ultra Music Festival.
“THERE’S AN ANGEL IN THE SHOWER” (yeah, all caps) is one of my favorites from AZD, a minimalist affair with a really subtle melody, barely-there drums and an accompanying whisper-like hiss. The hiss in itself goes a long way towards setting the mood, helping to make the track feel like some sort of aural oddity playing from a dusty, buzzing tape you discovered in storage and somehow got to work on the ship’s computer system in the year 2293. Throughout the listen’s seven minutes, the sound stays spare and isolated with its repeating melody, often with periodic interjections as other beats and sounds appear and disappear from the mix, particularly one prominent backbeat which kicks in at the 3:30 mark. “Angel…” is a moody, exploratory and lonely listen, and I’m loving how Actress takes the music from the dancefloor to deep space.