Actress, Ghettoville

Abby Garnett

By Abby Garnett

on 01.27.14 in Reviews
A pared-down, pitch-shifted series of textural exercises

Thanks to Darren Cunningham’s cryptic self-mythologizing, rumors swirled that the London producer’s latest LP as Actress, Ghettoville, might be his last: Press materials for the album ended with the statement “R.I.P. Music 2014.” As it turns out, though, Ghettoville only sounds like a door closing. Actress originally gained traction through sonically adventurous DJs like Richie Hawtin and Theo Parrish, who championed his hyperkinetic, uncategorizable post-dubstep. Now four albums into the project, Cunningham has morphed into a craftsman of gritty grayscale miniatures, which he uses here to describe a decaying cityscape (the album title reprises his 2008 debut, Hazyville.) While he throws the club a few bones here, on churning techno cut “Frontline” and the aquatic thumper “Gaze,” Ghettoville is predominantly a pared down, pitch-shifted series of textural exercises, as alluring for the experimental set as it is devoid of DJ-friendly fare. “Rims,” which devolves into an insistent click track, pushes sonic deconstruction to near-hostile levels, while the warped slow jam “Rap” slyly acknowledges that Cunningham once described his music as “R&B concrete.” As a piece of sound art, it’s finely drawn and intermittently seductive, but Ghettoville has the effect of further obscuring its creator’s intentions.