As the prequel to the much-anticipated Karma & Desire, 88 has a lot to offer.
The album lands without any background information or physical release restrictions, lending creative freedom that Cunningham makes the most of. The 48-minutes are strikingly non-linear. Some of the twenty-two sketches are just a matter of seconds and the gaps between them flash by so quickly that you lose track. It is tantalisingly enigmatic and full of thrilling unpredictability.
88 balances the avant-garde and the casually idiosyncratic, making it hard to tell whether Cunningham has painstakingly sculpted a sound or jammed it on the fly. Sketches reveal themselves like silhouettes and vanish quicker than they arrived. They leave a kaleidoscopic effect, a half mapped-out collage, a stark contrast of lo-res and ultra-sharp elements.
Not all of it is vintage Actress. A couple of parts feel like they would have been binned if this were an official, label release but there are plenty of highlights. 12 minutes in, the pairing of wonky, computer-game zaps, and a dubstep-era melody somehow gel. There is emotive, slo-mo techno with the crunch of a busted amp (24:00) or what sounds like a grime instrumental with its main element removed (37:10). Bookended by two stunning pieces of rainy-day ambient, a crisp rhythm and ominous bleeps stand out like the jarring psychedelia you find on a Terrence Dixon record (16:52).
Given the number of guest appearances on the tracklist for his next album, 88 feels like a pure counterpart: a heartfelt teaser from Cunningham whose title refers to a telegraph operator's abbreviation for "love and kisses."
Thu / 23 Jul 2020
01. Blurring Celt
05. Every Action
11. Lovely Muffled Tones And Beat
17. In The Rain