Tracing the anatomy of AZD in Actress’ dazzling new album

By in Features





A futuristic vision refracted in chrome.

Mehdi Lacoste’s photograph for the cover of Actress’ new album AZD is striking in its tenderness. A chrome hand, palm down, coming into tentative contact with its human counterpart.

It’s an image that resonated with Ninja Tune Project Manager Theresa Adebiyi who described it as an “incredibly powerful statement of intent about the records ‘anatomy’ and as an apt visual metaphor for transient identity.”

Touch the deluxe edition of AZD, hermetically sealed in a sterile chrome bag, and you might just get a little of the same sensation.

And as she says, ‘Anatomy of AZD’ was the album’s working title

As Adebiyi says, “the chrome outer sleeve is another interpretation of the the AZD chrome avatar (that features in his live show and on the cover) and the simple font placement is there to make sure nothing detracts from the otherworldliness of the silver packaging that feels really special and almost alien in hand.”

It feels almost destructive to peel open the envelope.

Actress has cited radical graffiti artist and afro-futurist theorist Rammellzee as an inspiration for the album, whose Gothic Futurism manifesto is predicated on meeting of ancient and the modern.

On the cover of AZD, that line is blurred and we’re not sure if the chrome hand, dismembered at the wrist, is in a visitation from some distant future or an artifact, excavated and cleaned from an ancient past. It is an object after all, and could just as well have been weaved into James Hampton’s Throne – the collector and outsider artist who Actress aka Darren Cunningham also cites as inspirational.

The play between what came, what is and what’s to come is crucial to Actress’ music too, as the record glides effortlessly between ‘80s New Order-esque synth riffs, dancefloor machinations and an abstracted, future avant-garde. His vernacular is, like Rammellzee’s, almost entirely his own, united by the analogue hiss that makes the whole record see monochrome and detached.

It’s an aesthetic that is carried through the vinyl edition of the LP, its inner sleeves, and the clouded vinyl discs a perfect carrier for such obfuscated sounds.

“The inner sleeve uses Tanya Paget’s ‘Werking’ pattern and is set against Eddie Peake’s stunning blue canvas on the inside,” Adebiyi says. “It was important that both these pieces were presented as intact as possible on the record so the inner sleeves felt like the best fit. A simple triangle on the inner vinyl labels was used to pull together the inner sleeves and acknowledge Actress’s recurring motif.”

Pre-order your copy ahead of its release on 14th April here.