The primary alias of Wolverhampton, England-based producer Darren Cunningham, Actress has been credited with some of the least predictable, categorization-defying electronic dance music of the 2000s and 2010s. Since debuting with the No Tricks 12" on his own Werk Discs label in 2004, Cunningham juggled a diverse array of inspirations -- including early-'80s funk and electro, art rock, raw and classicist house, and noise -- while putting a fresh, challenging spin on them. As a result, his productions confounded some DJs while also being devoured by others within the realms of house, techno, and dubstep. Cunningham's reputation was solidified through the promising Hazyville, released on Werk in 2008, and the exceptional 2010 follow-up Splazsh for Honest Jon's, as well as remixes of tracks by a select list of fellow producers including Kassem Mosse, Joy Orbison, Alex Smoke, and Panda Bear. Werk Discs simultaneously became one of the most revered dance labels, a trusted outlet for the likes of Lone, Zomby, and Lukid.
In 2012, Cunningham released his third Actress album, R.I.P., his most abstract and singular work to that point. The same year, he collaborated with artist Yayoi Kasuma for a performance at London's Tate Modern gallery and remixed tracks for John Cale and Kasabian. The producer's fourth album, 2014's Ghettoville, was released with support from Ninja Tune. Cunningham ominously proclaimed the set to be "the bleached out and black tinted conclusion of the Actress image," but an installment in the !K7 label's long-running DJ-Kicks mix series was out by the end of 2015. Another production album supported by Ninja Tune, the highly conceptualized AZD, arrived a couple years after that, just after Cunningham's secondary aliases (which previously included Levantis and GNESIS) multiplied with a trio of limited cassette singles (as That Knightsbridge OG, Dial 666 8100, and Bank of England). ~ Andy Kellman