The bleary-eared swagger of ‘Ghettoville’ concludes Actress’ album cycle begun with his debut ‘Hazyville’ back in 2008. As we’re sure you’re well aware, in the meantime he’s released a pair of modern classics, ‘Splazsh’ and ‘R.I.P.’, two radically rugged, sophisticated abstractions of electronic music alternately rendered in crystal clear and far-more-murky resolution.
With ‘Ghettoville’ it would appear he’s wearing his tinted glasses again, the ones which don’t show up his bloodshot eyes and give him license to prowl the most fugged-up interzones between dancefloor, bedroom and headspace without hassle. Like ‘Hazyville’ the emphasis is on heavy troddin’ grooves – a backyard distillation of grime, rare groove, house and hip hop – but he’s now upped the overdriven noise factor to noxious, memory-bleaching degrees, making everything eerie as f**k and disorienting, like a dazed 5am stroll around familiar yet alien ends of a concrete jungle shrouded in pre-dawn fog.
The oppressive atmosphere would be enervating if not for the redemptive traces of melody that perfuse the murk, whether that’s the tweet of birdsong that cuts through the foundry clank of ‘Forgiven’, the half-heard Thriller-era boogie hope of whoever’s been crushed to def in ‘Contagious’, or the seductive bassline calling you back in from the smoking area 52 in ‘Frontline’, always keeping his sound cannily poised with an ambiguous, ambivalent nonchalance. DJs will find useful gear in the gauzy bump and grind of ‘Skyline’ and the low-slung, knock-kneed swing of ‘Birdcage’, but ultimately this album is one for the heads, the headphones, and lowlit habitats.