The European Electronica group Actress originated in South London, England, in 2002. Their music has been described as experimental drum â€˜nâ€™ bass, 2-step and post-dubstep. Actress is comprised of British producer and songwriter, Darren Cunningham, who performs under the stage name Actress (or â€œActonâ€), and the visual artist, Robin Needham.
Actress's sound is heavily inspired by both experimental and electronic music. Using primarily samples from obscure vinyl records and found sound recordings, Cunningham has co-engineered, programmed, written and produced many albums by other established electronic music artists. He has also produced remixes for acts such as The Knife and Kings of Convenience. He usually records and produces his tracks and mixes on the fly, leaving out any superfluous techniques in favour of capturing the unique sound he hears in his head.
Apart from DJ'ing in clubs as part of the Dynamic Squirm collective, Cunningham has worked on various electronic projects since 1997 and released over 30 singles prior to the official formation of Actress. By 2002, Cunningham had become tired of the unmotivated and lacking attitude of some of his peers in the UK music industry. Dissatisfied with the limited potential of his own tracks, he decided to form a new project with Needham. Together crafted a human electronic sound that soon became a hit in clubs across Europe.
Actress released their first studio albumâ€¯Splazsh in 2010. The concept of Splazsh was based on Cunninghamâ€™s newfound interest in the works of Chicagoâ€™s â€œHouse Rulesâ€ label. He used it as a guide to interpret the sounds from the American House scene. The album marks the beginning of a thematic and sonic refinement for the band, one that honours traditional four-to-the-floor ideas but also reaches out for something new. The album featured productions from long-time collaborator, UZOK STORY, as well as vocal collaborations with vocalists Nat Thomas, Nicolette nn Hope, Siobhan Alice and Eddie Pherson. "Splazsh" was critically acclaimed and won the Polaris Prize in 2010.
The band has since released a number of acclaimed albums, most notably Ghettoville (2014). The album displayed a darker tone to their previous releases. It was heavily influenced by Cunninghamâ€™s continual effort to revisit his teenage odyssey into UK garage and incorporate new sounds into his music. It included collaborations with Niko Mark and Chris Cunningham.
Actress has had multiple sold-out worldwide tours and continues to DJ, sample, and create new unique music. Theyâ€™ve had many opportunities to explore the relationship between music and visuals, crafting abstract visual statements for their shows. Unlike many of their peers, theyâ€™re often credited with meaningfully reinvigorating the design and execution of synchronised light and visuals.
The band continues to challenge and defy conventions in both performance and sound. Today, Malone and Needham walk the line between connecting emotion to identity and bringing a narrative experience to a broader population. Actress is not only a masterful example of electronic and experimental music, but also an example of sheer persistence in a transitioning industry.