Actress and Elysia Crampton both paint outside the lines of electronic dance music | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Actress and Elysia Crampton both paint outside the lines of electronic dance music


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British producer Darren Cunningham, who’s been making music as Actress since 2004, has built a career flouting dance-music conventions. Though he’s used the language of dubstep, ambient music, and Detroit techno over the years, Cunningham has sculpted a highly personal sound that often conveys a fragile, almost handmade quality, whether he’s creating gritty noise or hypnotizing abstraction. His recent AZD (Ninja Tune) is the latest in a series of retrenchments, embracing a more deliberate dance-floor direction but retaining the wonderfully crusted-over hiss and abrupt editing techniques of 2014’s Ghettoville. “CYN” samples influential New York hip-hop icon Rammellzee, but the track fuses a futuristic, muted strain of techno with deliberately primitive production; that sort of dissonance is maybe the one constant in Actress’s work. Native American producer Elysia Crampton, another dissident from dance-music orthodoxy, uses her work to explore issues of Latinx and trans identity; she’s one of the most fascinating figures in experimental electronic music today. The first seven tracks on Crampton’s latest album, Spots y Escupitajo (Vinyl Factory), zip by in just 90 seconds, flailing with noisy field recordings and weird electronic spasms. The rest of the album comprises six full-length tracks that are just as odd, and that only occasionally deliver what anyone might call dance music. I’m not crazy about the collision of retro sound effects, chintzy fake-string synth washes, and some of the voice-overs, but I can’t think of anything else that sounds remotely like what she’s doing.   v

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