Ninja Tune • 2023

You don’t need to know much about chess or game theory to find Darren Cunningham’s ninth album in the guise of Actress, »LXXXVIII«, pretty fantastic. But for all you subcultural electro nerds out there, here’s something to get your brain around! The »audio infusions« are supposed to work like a game of chess, increasing in range from track to track. The listening experience »LXXXVII« gives you is just as complex, sometimes leading you through seven-minute avant-garde meditations. In between there are tracks like »It’s me«, which loosens up the game-like mindfuck a bit and could have come out of a James Blake boiler room. The thirteen tracks are certainly less than monotonous. From steam-punk attitude to lo-fi dreams to references to games like Portal, you’ll find everything between »Push Power« and »Pluto«. Oh, and let’s not forget the very unusual promotional strategy: Darren Cunningham played online chess to promote LXXXVIII, sending his opponents automated links to the album trailer. Perhaps to underline his point? It certainly doesn’t feel like chess, but it is as varied as Twister.