The primary alias of Darren Cunningham, Actress has been credited with some of the least predictable, least classifiable electronic music of his era. Cunningham has juggled a diverse array of inspirations, including early-'80s funk and electro, art rock, raw and classicist house, and noise, while putting a fresh spin on the forms to decayed, disorienting effect. Cunningham has been one of the most acclaimed experimentalists of the 2010s, exemplified with frequent placement in Wire magazine's annual Top 50, beginning with Splazsh, which topped the 2010 chart, and continuing through AZD in 2017.
He made a debut on his Werk Discs label in 2004 with the No Tricks EP. Easily the most straightforward release in his discography, it at least hinted at the scuffed and bent qualities that eventually characterised his output. Cunningham spent a few years perfecting a follow-up, Hazyville, released on Werk in 2008. Its promise was fulfilled with his exceptional second album, Splazsh, which arrived on Honest Jon's label and topped Wire's Top 50 chart for 2010. By that point, Cunningham had remixed tracks by Alex Smoke, Kode9, and Joy Orbison, among others. In 2012, Cunningham released the third Actress album, R.I.P., his most abstract and singular work to that point. The producer's fourth album, Ghettoville, was released in 2014 on Ninja Tune. Cunningham ominously proclaimed the bleak set to be "the bleached out and black tinted conclusion of the Actress image," but an instalment in the !K7 label's long-running DJ-Kicks mix series was out by the end of 2015. Another production album supported by Ninja Tune, the highly conceptualised AZD, arrived a couple years after that, just after Cunningham's secondary aliases -- which previously included Levantis and GNESIS -- multiplied with a trio of limited cassette singles as That Knightsbridge OG, Dial 666 8100, and Bank of England. Cunningham quickly returned later in 2017 with the Audio Track 5 EP, the first fruit of a collaboration with London Contemporary Orchestra, with whom he performed the previous year in London and Moscow. An adventurous full-length with LCO, LAGEOS, followed in 2018, as did an eponymous EP credited to Young Paint, billed as a collaboration between Cunningham and a "learning program."
His activity picked up again in 2020 with 88, a freely available mixtape of sorts that led to the proper LP Karma & Desire. Cunningham's most traditionally collaborative recording, Karma & Desire was augmented by instrumentation from Kara-Lis Coverdale and multiple appearances from Zsela and Sampha, among other vocalists. Karma & Desire can be regarded as Cunningham’s most acclaimed album to date, reaching number 4 on the UK electronic album charts, being featured in The Guardian's 50 best albums of 2020, and receiving a nomination for A2IM's 2021 Libera Award for Best Dance/Electronic Album.
Actress has also ventured into the world of exhibitions and installations. In 2012 he collaborated with artist Yayoi Kasuma for a performance at London's Tate Modern gallery and in 2021, debuted the audiovisual installation ‘Grey Interiors’ in collaboration with Actual Objects art collective at the Zeiss-Großplanetarium as part of The New Infinity event at Berlin Art Week.
'Karma & Desire'
2020 (Ninja Tune)
2018 (Ninja Tune)
2017 (Ninja Tune)
2014 (Werkdiscs / Ninja Tune)
2014 (Werkdiscs / Ninja Tune)
2012 (Honest Jon's Records)
2010 (Honest Jon's)