Following on from ‘Splazsh’ - Darren Cunningham’s second album – we’d have thought that he would have been hard done by to surpass the sheer brilliance that made his 2010 album a contemporary classic. Yet with ‘R.I.P.’, Cunningham seems to continue where ‘Splazsh’ left off, finding himself hovering in that indefinable space of electronic innovation that Actress calls home.
In contrast to ‘Splazsh’ there seems to be little regard left for the more functional facets of dance music. It’s the most freeform and abstract material we’ve seen from the producer - flickerings of structure only rear their head in fleeting moments, nods to the dance floor do occasionally manifest, such as on ‘Marble Plexus’ with its constant rhythmic backbone, yet even still, they come intercepted by intangible binary forms and a sense of severity that doesn’t quite translate. It simultaneously appeals to the body, whilst drilling deep into unexplored cerebral cavities.
It all starts to make more sense when Cunningham explains that it is a concept album - of sorts - born from John Milton’s classic ‘Paradise Lost’ poem, and from which Cunningham has extracted themes of death, loss and erosion. A conceptual arc that when put into sonic form sounds adrift in deep-space, gone astray with dreamlike ambience, submerged techno and crystallised neo-classicism. His narrative has clarity too – hinting at paradise in ‘Holy Water’, a track that sounds alive - liquid crystalline droplets spitting their way out of their confinement - and hinting at destruction with the magically entrapped beast that the monstrous ‘Shadow From Tartarus’ sounds so evocative of.