- The rate of dance-classical crossovers seems to be accelerating, and from Haçienda classical to the Radio 1 Ibiza Prom, Emika's symphony to Kate Simko's London Electronic Orchestra, the results are rarely edifying. Partly it's the very premise: electronic dance music, powerful for the way it reflects our technological present (and future), doesn't need reflected glory from the fossilised classical tradition. This argument aside, such projects rarely ascend beyond gimmickry or classical pastiche. In this respect, Actress should be commended. Audio Track 5, from a 2016 collaboration with the London Contemporary Orchestra, isn't easy listening, and it's certainly not his best work. But it brings his music into a new space without compromising what makes him unique.
With a tired Detroit pulse, asymmetric loops and sly hints of melody, many of the lead track's elements are trademark Actress. But they're not breathing the humid air of the AZD studio so much as the cooler atmosphere of an air-conditioned concert hall. Prepared piano, strings and woodwinds are left almost shockingly bare, and the mood is all the more oppressive for it.
The rest of the EP, which precedes an album-length document of the collaboration, retreats back into the AZD soundspace. The "-6 Version" is the exact same file pitched down half an octave—a cheeky move, but one consistent with Actress's sound. (Much of Ghettoville sounded like a chopped & screwed version of itself.) The track ends up sounding more dreamlike, lurid and strange, and on the "Narrowest Sustain Version" the process seems to go into overdrive. We're now at a level of slowness where orientation is lost and harmless sounds seem vast and mysterious, as downpitched samples pass like leviathans in the deep, and waves crash and roar in the distance. Then the roaring stops, as if we've crossed some threshold into a new sonic dimension. Once there, Actress seems to lose interest, and the track putters out shortly after.
A1 Audio Track 5
A2 Audio Track 5 (-6 Version)
B1 Audio Track 5 (Narrowest Sustain Version)