Acclaimed electronic artist and chess aficianado, Actress makes his next move and calls checkmate with his new album, LXXXVIII.
Welcome to LXXXVIII, the ninth album by Actress, also known as Darren Cunningham. The album marks a remarkable milestone, as it represents Actress' journey into the realm of luxurious sonic landscapes. Over the course of 25 years, he has honed his unique ability to craft mind-bending, soul-igniting audio experiences for dance floors, rave dens, festivals, and concert halls. LXXXVIII marks his first project since 2022's Dummy Corporation which firmly reestablished Actress at the heart of underground club culture. Just before that, in 2020, he released Karma & Desire, which featured guest collaborations with Mercury Prize winner Sampha, Zsela, and Aura T-09.
LXXXVIII is a bit more than just an album though, it's a deep dive into the world of chess, both thematically and artistically. The track titles correspond to chess moves, and Cunningham himself has stated that "different tracks elicited different responses & determined the move they proposed back to me." LXXXVIII introduces us to the world of game theory, a facet of its creation that invites us to delve into deep strategic thinking. It's a concept more commonly associated with economics and chess than with artistic practice, yet it played a fundamental role in shaping the album. Each track is a move in an intricate chess game, with "Push Power ( a 1 )" serving as the first move, laying the groundwork for the entire album. As the game unfolds, the music evolves, reflected in the textured and delicate layers of the track. "Game Over ( e 1 )" acts as the final, closing move in this musical chess game.
Chess isn't just a thematic element; it's a mirror of the artist's precise physicality in the studio. It symbolizes the intricate and tactical, internal and aesthetic battles that were waged in the creation of LXXXVIII. In a unique promotional move, Cunningham even challenged people to play a bullet round of chess against him online, which led them to a trailer for the upcoming album.
Cunningham's creative journey began at a young age. Growing up in Wolverhampton, he displayed artistic talents that set him apart. As a student, he excelled at creative projects, demonstrating a knack for copying pictures and creating intricate murals. His early experiences with creativity would later find their expression in music, as he developed a unique approach to sound, akin to creating collages of fabric. While he initially pursued football with great enthusiasm, an injury during his promising career as a player for West Bromwich Albion changed his course. It was a career-ending injury that led him to explore music. Cunningham branched out into DJing, teaching himself the craft, amassing a record collection, and performing at student house parties in Wolverhampton. This shift in direction opened the door to his remarkable journey in electronic music.