Darren Cunningham's first solo release of 2010 is an exercise in restrained abstraction: tracks that work because they envelope the listener in offbeat patterns and spontaneously pull back at all the right moments. Although the looping, shadowy quality that characterized much of Hazyville is present here, Cunningham seems to be lifting the gauze a bit, revealing layers of activity beneath.
"Loomin" has a taut industrial churn, utilizing, like the rest of the EP, stop-start rhythmic structures. It eventually breaks into a familiar (uh, "Detroit-esque") melancholic four-chord progression that's so submerged and so lightly used it escapes cliché, a quick flicker of light before the track extinguishes itself.
"Machine and Voice" is the instant hit, a twitchy headrush of a workout that alternately recalls Ryan Leslie's blip&b and Anthony 'Shake' Shakir's glitchier moments, managing to incorporate a lot of microscopic snippets and remain spacious at the same time. You could probably stay locked in perfect pop-lock forever if it wasn't for the dazed woosh that suddenly smothers the beat around halfway through; think about the disorienting use of portamento on Infiniti's "Game One" or "Skyway" and you're approaching the effect.
Finally, "Und U Boat" is an unsettlingly subdued, whirring piece. Dreamy tones loop in the background, occasionally punctuated by lilting washes of noise, and a semblance of a melody emerges and recedes with such subtlety it's easy to miss on first listen.
Initially confounding, these are tracks that reward repeat listens, containing the kind of dense, crawling hypnotism that's becoming emblematic of Actress's oeuvre. Cunningham continues to blur the line between soundscape and jack track, a vision that's as futuristic as it is engrossing.
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Tracklist: Actress - Machine and Voice A Machine and Voice
B2 Und U Boat