We leap at any chance we get to catch the mighty Actress in action and this particular occasion was a very special that just could not be sniffed at. Actress teamed up with the London Contemporary Orchestra to perform for Boiler Room at The Barbican Centre; so Actress + LCO + Boiler Room + The Barbican = maximum excitement levels for DLTM. As we were to find out, it was to be a unforgettable night indeed.
Actress is renowned for his leftfield approach to electronic music. His influences are varied, but techno experimentalists Autechre are among his early inspirations and, with that in mind, it’s easy to see where Actress got his penchant for pushing the boundaries of accepted norms in the electronic music sphere. This is a very basic summary of an artist who is way more complex than genre titles and pigeonholes will allow, so let’s just say he is someone who we are very fond of and The Barbican was an ideal setting for his performance with the London Contemporary Orchestra.
Over the course of an hour or so, we were treated to a solemn atmosphere in the Barbican. Solemn and serious, because the music we were being presented with was to be digested in an atmosphere that demanded your undivided attention – complete silence, darkness, and insular experience shared with a room full of people who are all honed in on the subtleties of the beautiful compositions being performed by the classically-trained group of musicians and, at the centre of it all, Actress. Sat with hood up, at a desk with two MacBooks and a variety of electronic gear, he was in full-on gully mode, the man at the controls, keeping it all moving with effortless fluidity – at times he hardly seemed to move, but you could tell he was hard at work.
The stage was lit up in spectacular style, with a range of lighting effects and projections that complemented the music well. The music itself was highly engaging, meditative and thought-provoking. Sitting there in the audience, body and mind absolutely still, transfixed on the stage, you could close your eyes and take a journey inwards. Occasionally a beat would come in, or some kind of abrupt noise or effect – at one point, in fact, one of the LCO percussionists rustled a plastic bag, much to our amusement – but only on the odd occasion. For the rest of it, we felt as though we were eavesdropping on a sublime, intellectual conversation between Actress’ electronic compositions and the LCO’s superb orchestral intonations, even when the beats started rolling.
A beautiful performance, which demonstrated how electronic and classical styles can be interwoven seamlessly.