An album occupying a rare, pigeonhole-defying space.
Matthew Bennett 2010-11-30
The line between innovation and indulgence is often invisible. Yet this subjective division can cease to matter where the two thrive on each other’s energy. The uncompromising force that is Actress complicates this zone with an album whose experimental vision further fuels his personal journey to a lonely outpost of the leftfield.
Splazsh traverses very open ground. Fourteen tracks roughly inhabit a post-dubstep landscape and it’s from this increasingly shared terrain he floats to deploy crushed house, neo industrial, monastic experiments and onto points that aren’t bothered by the vagaries of genre, such are their originality. It’s coarse, awkward and at times lacks air; but the stubborn nature of Splazsh’s development leaves you parched for more.
Launching with the transformative entry point of Hubble, an eight-minute wonky acid glide, luring the listener from their mooring like a cosmic siren – we’re engaged more in a process than an opening track. Over the next 13 tracks Actress twists and turns, wrestling with the spirit guides of his heroes. Yet he crucially forces his music past their memory to retain possession of this album.
Maze, for example is haunted by Carl Craig’s Landcruising in its epic minimalism and seductive sequencing. Moodymann’s soul is the basis for the folio of real life house party reverberations on Always Human; a bawdy but jumping cut. Mad Mike’s synth work finds a ghost exorcised on Let’s Fly, perhaps an unconscious homage to the influential Codebreaker anthem, before Prince gets examined on the slightly more overt Purrple Splazsh.
But these abstracted names and ephemeral references suggest way too much convention. These 14 tracks are much more than the sum of their weird and claustrophobic parts, as Actress has both absorbed the spirit of his forefathers and injected the same magic into the heart of considerably more experimental structures that electrifyingly defy pigeonholes. This is an album occupying a rare space.
There’s a very good chance that the obdurate production, awkward grooves and his obsessive tweaks of dithering cymbals will inspire many hardcore producers currently creatively waking. Tackling Splaszh will only bear fruit for fanatics of rhythm, as Actress hears his sonic mercury begin to get tidal.