In a short film last year, Darren Cunningham, who’s better known as Actress, and Hugh Brunt, of the London Contemporary Orchestra, said they wanted to create and play music together that was a true hybrid. When they said this they probably had the same thing in mind: those electronic-meets-classical projects that simply recreate dance tracks with acoustic instruments. In truth, there was never a danger this collaboration would be conventional. Cunningham is one of electronic music’s most adventurous artists, a member of a small group of producers who have created a sound that’s entirely—and recognisably—their own. For their part, the LCO seems to value innovation and collaboration above all else. They’ve worked extensively with artists from different musical disciplines (Matmos, Arcade Fire, William Basinski, Biosphere, Mira Calix, Goldfrapp and many others) and have been involved in film scores such as the Jonny Greenwood-led soundtrack for Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. The collaboration between Actress and the LCO took shape last year, with performances at The Barbican in London and Moscow’s Strelka Institute, while the EP they released last month is the first taste of a forthcoming album for Ninja Tune. Together, they’ve created something that finds both acts in a new musical zone.
When you see the LCO perform in this RA Session you’ll understand why Cunningham liked the idea of working with them. Almost all of the instruments in this performance are played in unusual ways: the cello is banged, the piano is plucked, the marimba is draped with a blanket, a plastic bag is used as percussion. Blended with Cunningham’s ghostly electronics, we get a strange yet captivating 12-minute, four-part performance.