Friday, 20 April 2012

R.I.P - Actress (Honest Jon's Records)

Who's dead? What's dead? Well, my reservations regarding Actress, for starters. Although I've liked some of his past material this album has rocketed him up to number 231 (approx) in my Top 300 Contemporary Artists list. Imagine having such a thing? Who does? No-one. Except possibly a music magazine/site, which might publish their list every year, like The Times' Top 100 Greedy Bastards, or something. I couldn't conjure up 300, not even 30, but right now, Actress is riding high in another list I've just made up: Top Contemporary Albums of the Week. He's number 1, actually, and I'm sure if he read this (what are the chances?) he'd be thrilled.

Actress pushes all the right buttons - literally - Rhythm, Tone, are buttons labelled on whatever he uses? Remember when kids used to stare into the windows of shops selling guitars and dream of being in a rock 'n' roll band, like David Essex in That'll Be The Day ? Of course you don't, you're not that old. Actress didn't particular want to produce music until he saw footage of Shy FX talking about his mad different methods of mixing. That set him off. Modern producers have mechanical dreams the way young 'uns of old worshipped the stringed machine - but they drool over a different kind of kit, a purely push-button & twist dial one, which is hard to play dexterously the way Jimi did the guitar, but Lee Perry gave it a good go.

Actress doesn't go in for fussy, complicated noodling, being far more interested in texture, tone and loops, with handmade imprints smeared everywhere, which is no mean feat in the man vs machine situation.  There's nothing startlingly original, but you know by now that that concept is dead, don't you? So R.I.P. 'originality'. 'Jardin' is pleasing the way The Caretaker is, or Satie, even - simplicity, restraint, and a loop that hooks. 'Serpent' is reminiscent of classic UR, fusion-style. 'Tree Of Knowledge' is glitchy, woozy, and wonderfully disorientating. If, as on 'N.E.W.', he veers dangerously close to imitating Eno, that's OK by me. The feel of this album, not the nut and bolts, is everything, and as diverse (within limits) as it is, it has an overall flavour which tastes good to these ears.

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