In my living room there was a flower vase as a child; a slab of glass slicing through a minimal blue cornucopia for the sake of a single tulip. The glass was translucent but held a whole world within that could only be viewed from the side. You’d aim your eyes straight through the cross section of the pane and the thickness would multiply into a matrix of deep green refracted light. That was my first limit-experience and I never got over it, placing my eyes at the spine of any glass across which I’d come for the sake of infinity, which seemed like an alluring escape: a place I could enter and with the light thoroughly piercing my body become invisible to the physical world.
Infinite and invisible, like repetition: One beat means nothing; where two or more are gathered there is music, which is the gathering of invisible sounds.
Hazy and disembodied, the beats on Darren Cunningham’s AZD, his latest record as Actress, approach infinity through repetition, fractal-like, each moment spinning the polygonal web of endless other moments. It’s the universe within a translucent pane of glass to which Cunningham welcomes the listener, reflected in the album art as a human hand meeting its synthetic counterpart: an embodied reflection.
Of course, even syrupy, chrome-gilded beats can reflect nothing in the darkness; in this sense, Cunningham’s record is a lamp in this dark universe, transected by light but never struck. Each layer of sound is demarcated not through stylistic variation, but indeed by differential brightness or perhaps focus: dark, nondescript silhouettes at the bottom that, when illuminated, eject bright sparks into the aural foreground. You’d think that, were you to look away, the music might stop.
Not that there is any way to turn against the rhythm. Direction, after all, lacks meaning unless pinned to another point on the matrix; we are biased toward the center of the earth, but Cunningham’s sound sculptures, mirroring themselves into private infinities and stripped of their directional nuclei, are the closest sense of zero gravity to which the dancefloor can aspire.
The dancefloor, after all, pulls us down to the ground, its numbing four-on-the-floor calling us to a primeval state. Cunningham’s glass house music, on the other hand, is ethereally uplifting.