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

Music » Concert Preview

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



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

Get our free weekly Early Warnings newsletter 💌

It’s Chicago’s essential months-ahead music calendar straight to your inbox.

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  →