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Actress & London Contemporary Orchestra - Lageos

Release Review

Actress & London Contemporary Orchestra - Lageos

If the slightly early release of 'Audio Track 5' was an indicator of the mood that Actress and the LCO were trying to reflect in their collaborative album 'Lageos', then that mood is undoubtedly something eerie and oneiric - as if we are stood at the foot of the Barbican's tower beneath a low, empathically grey ceiling of a sky. But the sound of the album itself, the result of a two year collaboration between LCO and Actress, is much broader, and makes innovative use of the full orchestral range and a motley crew of found sounds. There is a significant difference too, between this album and the recent outputs of the likes of Hauschka and Nils Frahm, where the introduction of classical instruments and composition often seems to dictate the tonal quality of classical-ambient albums. Here, Actress is remixing the orchestra, sampling, chopping, looping and recomposing instrumental lines in analog edits and deconstructing material from the original show that the two performed together a year ago at the Barbican. 

The spectrum of finished tracks is remarkably broad: the atonal experiment of 'Galya Beat' jars after the lusher ambient sounds of 'Lageos' and 'Momentum'. The double-bass jazz lilt of 'Chasing Numbers' and the piano-infused neo-impressionism of 'Chaos Rain' also sit a little awkwardly beside 'Surfer's Hymn', the track most reminiscent of Actress' more abstract dance tracks. The latter half of the album seems stronger than the middle in terms of its coherence: for one, it is more beat led, but it's also navigating a slightly less experimental space, whilst still incorporating the eclectic orchestral sounds of the LCO into Actress's unique brand of minimal.

Actress a.k.a Darren Cunningham spoke prior to the release of the importance of the space of the Barbican, of whether the album and its live performance can continue the experience of what people might feel as they enter the Barbican for the first time or seventeenth time. The extent to which the Barbican is both a powerful symbolic and felt space, onto which we project so much, makes this consideration a vital one for its listeners too, but could leave one feeling a little dislocated listening in a basement, suburban flat.

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