Two years after teasing the demise of his alter-ego with R.I.P., London producer Darren Cunningham now appears to be killing off the name for good with a fourth studio effort, Ghettoville, self-described as “a bleached out and black tinted conclusion of the Actress image.”
Intended as an official follow-up to 2008 debut Hazyville, the album’s sixteen tracks certainly make for a challenging swansong. Indeed, largely relying on a gloomy wave of static hiss, harsh broken beats and murky synths, Robinson isn’t remotely interested in giving his Actress moniker a celebratory send-off.
Opener “Forgiven” is an ominous seven-minute haze of mechanical percussion and low-slung bass-lines which could have been lifted from the soundtrack of a dystopian sci-fi thriller. “Street Corp,” a claustrophobic and highly unsettling ball of heavily compressed digital rhythms, only adds to the sense of unease, while the nightmarish post-dubstep of “Contagious” almost makes Burial’s sinister productions sound like bubblegum pop.
Actress’ apocalyptic vision remains intact, but his apparent aversion to pressing the stop record button means that several of his more patience-testing soundscapes run out of ideas long before they grind to their halt.
Ironically, the most intriguing moments on Ghettoville are the interlude-style tracks you wish Robinson had explored further, whether it’s the clattering Herbie Hancock-esque electro-funk of “Image,” the pitch-shifted R&B of “Rap” or the melancholic synth balladry of “Don’t” – all of which frustratingly clock in under the three-minute mark.
Elsewhere, the four-to-the-floor techno of “Birdcage” and the old-school house vibes of “Gaze” both up the tempo in a typically hypnotic fashion, “Rims” offers some welcome light relief with its cartoonish array of electro bleeps and blips, while “Grey Over Blue” brings proceedings to a suitably sombre close with its aptly-titled blend of washed-out synths and warped grooves.
Ghettoville may suffer from a lack of focus at times, but if it does turn out to be Actress’ final outing, then it’s undoubtedly a fitting farewell.