AZD finds Actress back doing it like no other, a twelve track journey that draws on the smokiest basement techno, the highest blunted garage beats and the most lit skunk-induced ambience, traversed through a night spent rolling deep through the hazy matrix that makes up his South London boroughs, skyline club music illuminated only by dimly lit street lights shot through blacked-out car windows.
Having kept a hidden profile in the intervening years since Ghettovillle, Actress's only entry into our collective consciousness was his highly lauded DJ-Kicks. A mix where the common echoes of urbanite musique concrète that is so key to his sound were brought out of like-minded artists such as Breaker 1 2, Autechre, Beneath & Simbiosi. Much like his solo material, this mix really showed the expansive range of Actress' influence and influences - be it classic deep house, bassbin soundboy destruction, complex electro-acoustic structures and downwards darkside techno. The common theme through all these tracks exposed the listening habits that bleed into his productions. A fascinating viewpoint that showed the wax being chewed up and spat out into the sometimes menacing, aquatic marble plexus that is the Actress sound.
Returning to the scene in style, AZD starts off with the digital rainfall of NIMBUS, where we find ourselves spending a stoned Saturday afternoon. This low-key vibe is continued through the escalating gyro house of UNTITLED 7, the carefully constructed strings siding up to a constantly evolving swarm of synthesis that wraps itself around a half time kick. Setting itself up for what is sure to be one of the most submerged techno trax of 2017. This is continued expertly on FANTASYNTH where we are left unable to shake the feeling of half-remembered déjà vu, the echo of past recordings carefully circulating just out of grasp.
Bleeding in influence from the endlessly innovative grime & jungle white labels that make up the rich musical heritage from which he comes, AZD finds Actress moving deeper into these styles than ever before. Twisting the sounds into his singular pallet with CYN, the opening burst of rap bars builds into a shuffling garage swing that mirrors his Wiley remix from a while back. X22RME is possibly the most straight up 4 x 4 number since 2010's Lost, while its fractured skeleton is out and out UK hardcore, the avant edge is expelled through the euphoric FX, crashing down like vast waves before breaking the piece into a sample from an unknown source questioning the different meaning of owning things within our materialistic world.
Moving into the 80s synth wave scene with style, RUNNER comes on with the rush of a peak time Hacienda classic, left to gather dust through the 90s, exposed like a camera negative to the post-acid house years of jungle and D&B. Breaking up the flow of the album FALLING RIZLAS returns to the raindrops that we first found ourselves meandering through at the album's beginning .
The closing quarter of the record brilliantly concludes everything that has come before, from the tightly wound nostalgia for the future that makes up DANCING IN THE SMOKE to the iridescent cinematography of FAURE IN CHROME and the confused hubble of THERE'S AN ANGEL IN THE SHOWER. It is however on the closing track VISA that we find true enlightenment. a brilliantly upbeat house track where each snare drum seems to explode on itself with each hit, and the gameboy like hooks create a drowning whirlpool of ecstatic hooks, as if reaching through the downpour that plagued every step we took to get here, pulling us through to the other side with the cover's metal handed grip.
Much like the Analord series was a way of AFX looking back to find a new way forward, AZD is many ways is Actress coming full circle, revisiting previous records and futureproofing his sound by taking influence from, as well as while drawing out, new shapes from previous pieces of the puzzle. A daringly individual recording and one that is sure to stand out as a defining moment within the discography of one of the most elusive and extraordinary artists of our time.