III Points 2017: How Actress Changed His Live Setup for Miami

Courtesy of III Points
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Actress is not the type of artist who's comfortable with doing the same thing over and over again.

"I'm constantly changing my live setup," he said before his performance at III Points. "I hate being in a situation where it seems too put-together onstage."

The British electronic musician, born Darren Cunningham, frequently alters his stage setup, whether it's to simplify border crossings or for collaborations, such as a recent piece with the London Contemporary Orchestra. At III Points, he was accompanied only by a chrome-painted mannequin wearing a hoodie positioned in front of a synth keyboard. He began by setting off a single, primitive electronic tone, a wavelength that modulated up and down, shaking the room at its lowest pitch. It was difficult, disorienting, yet also unique and thrilling.

That's a description you can use for much of his work. His first four albums were sonic explorations of decaying urban environments, and the intersection of technology and humanity. Many of the textures on these records are inspired by the sounds Cunningham would hear around him in the '80s.

"Everything sounded much more visceral and raw back then," he says. "Now I don't feel it's like that."

Just as well, many of the instruments he uses, especially on his latest record AZD (pronounced azid) come from that era of electronic music.

"It's the first time I've specifically designed a studio around an album," he says. "I wanted to place myself in that position."

Part of the reason he admires the old methods of electronic composition, as opposed to today's everything-on-your-laptop ways, is their limitations.

"With those instruments, to do very simple things took ages...because those machines had such minimal memories, when you find a sound you like, you're scared to death of losing that sound."

Despite his looking into the past, AZD is perhaps Actress' most futuristic sounding album, although he's quick to dispute that. Even with the heavy presence of beautiful synths on tracks like "FALLING RIZLAS," there's still quite a bit of static and decay throughout. The record's most beautiful track, "FAURE IN CHROME," features sad violins from the London Contemporary Orchestra dueling with radio interference. Past, future, death and rebirth — look closely, and it's all there.

"AZD is a combustion of all these ideas," he says. "As far as the future goes, we're sort of there in our heads already, but the physical world hasn't caught up."

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