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Darren J. Cunningham - Topic
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Darren J. Cunningham - Topic

Top Tracks for Darren J. Cunningham Play

A collection of top songs featuring Darren J. Cunningham

Ghettoville Play

When the January 2014 release date and track list of Darren Cunningham's fourth Actress album was announced, the artist wrote some accompanying words that could be summarized as a resigned "whatever," or as an emoticon signifying a sigh, or as a rant ghost-written by Jaden Smith. Cunningham referred to the "conclusion of the Actress image" and, like a micro-blogger who just witnessed a miscue from a professional athlete, signed off with "R.I.P Music 2014." Whether the missive was deadly serious or not, there's no way to listen to Ghettoville without hearing disintegration and dread. It's even bleaker, more industrial and decayed, than 2012's R.I.P. There are more moments of forward motion here than on that previous album. They're all captivating on some level. The trudging "Rims" resembles a Neptunes instrumental -- Kelis' "Young, Fresh n' New," for instance -- mangled and pitched into a tub of liquid acid. "Birdcage" scrapes and tumbles with weaponized hi-hats and decayed kick drums as one of the album's funkiest and most straightforward moments. Another, "Gaze," despite being deeply corroded, bangs as hard as any other Actress track, while the lean "Skyline" jacks with a deep bassline, seemingly piped through a wind tunnel. Toward the end, the mood softens and even lifts a bit. "Rap" makes a saxophone slow jam slower, with the refrain "Wrap yourself around me" repeated to part-comic/part-alluring effect. Finale "Rule" is light-hearted hip-house as only Cunningham could make it -- a clumpy shuffle as a beat, chipper synthesized organ notes bent into blips, an emphatic MC transformed into a syrup-addled Mushmouth. If this is the end of Actress, it ties up a near-perfect discography of experimental electronic music. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi

R.I.P. Play

R.I.P.'s infrequent flirtations with the dancefloor should not surprise those who checked Darren Cunningham's post-Splazsh singles. Despite being issued on 12" vinyl, "Harrier ATTK" and "Rainy Dub" would have evacuated any floor within a few seconds. None of the four tracks from those releases reappears on R.I.P., but they foreshadowed this hourlong album's completely abstract, mostly ambient composition. One exception aside, the few jacking and pulsing rhythms function more as secondary elements than focal points, swathed in fuzzy textures, mechanical drones, baleful strings, and vocal micro-samples. The majority of the album places Actress closer to the superbly creative, evocative, and mind-altering terrain inhabited by Oneohtrix Point Never, with detectable traces of early-'80s Roedelius and Moebius, as well as Autechre; there's nearly no likeness to any of the club-oriented contemporaries on the producer's Werk label. As with Splazsh, there is no template. The tracks bear little relation to one another and could have been arranged in any sequence. That said, the thrillingly scuffy friction of "The Lord's Graffiti" -- where Actress could steal and redefine Pere Ubu's "avant-garage" neologism, moving it from garage rock to U.K. garage -- seems to fade in at the perfect moment, at track 13 (of 15). ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi

Splazsh Play

Sharper, sprawling, and more bent in comparison to 2008’s Hazyville -- Darren Cunningham's first Actress album -- Splazsh is a brilliantly malformed collision of dubstep, IDM, garage, and experimental techno. Even if each one of these tracks didn’t sound like it was coated in silt, there would be friction to spare. “Lost” is grounded in sub-bass tones that are washed out by fragile, disembodied vocal samples, streaks of agitated hi-hats, and a decaying twinkle of a keyboard vamp. “Purrple Splazsh,” a clipped groove that begins as abruptly as it ends, is less post-dubstep than alien new wave funk. “Senorita” swings like one of Kenny Dixon, Jr.’s early deep-house productions for Norma Jean Bell, yet it’s so muffled that you might as well be listening to it through speakers draped with blankets. “Bubble Butts and Equations” evokes nothing of the sort -- it’s more like a radioactive lagoon of diseased, lancing synthesizer notes from which rusted widgets emerge. Not really coherent (and, evidently, not the least bit concerned about it), Splazsh nonetheless keeps ears perked and astounded. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi

Hazyville Play

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