Exclaim!'s Best of 2014: Top 10 Dance & Electronic

7. Actress
(Werk Discs)

Actress's work has always had one foot planted in underground UK dance music, while the other has probed and prodded around, flinging up numerous mutant permutations in the process. Ghettoville is another prime example of this wonderful balancing act, and arguably Actress's best album to date. It's both a dense, beat-focused affair and a touchingly melodic and melancholic piece. The subtle stumbling drum machine work that streams throughout is firmly in service of texture rather than rhythm, while the crushed and crumbling sound palette effectively exudes sludgy weight while drawing on a seemingly scant range of sounds.

Still, Ghettoville's greatest asset is its refreshing nonchalance. From track to track, Actress drifts easily between grubby grey scale, far-off synth euphoria and distorted interludes of pure vocal emotion. Everything on Ghettoville feels in its rightful place, but the casualness of its progression vigorously shakes off any feeling of self-consciousness. With his deft touch, Actress has shown that an album doesn't have to take itself too seriously to be balanced and original. (Asa Thomas)