Class Actress — Movies — Review

John Preston

Brooklyn based Elizabeth Harper is Class Actress and with Movies, her second EP and following 2012’s Rapprocher album, she is taking her stage name seriously. The six tracks here form a narrative of sorts that links the inner and outer life of an actress who follows the decades-old dream of becoming a successful and desired actress in LA. For an artist who has studiously learnt and taken from disco and electropop of the eighties and nineties, ‘Movies’ hits heavy with its credentials.

Class Actress is now signed to Casablanca Records, one of the most dependable and genuinely iconic dance record labels of the seventies and eighties (Donna Summer, Cameo, Stephanie Mills, The Village People); and the EP is co-produced by Giorgio Moroder himself, the man behind some of the oddest, most beautiful and most successful and influential electronic records ever.

‘More Than You’ is the EP’s shining, steely star. Opening the 6-song set with a synth line that has been heard in varying forms from Summer’s own ‘I Feel Love’, Robyn’s ‘Dancing On My Own’ and all over the Drive soundtrack, Harper straddles the song’s accomplished chorus with a massive confidence and credibility. You believe this woman when she tells you that aren’t enough hours in her night. The constant whirring clicks in the background only add to the song’s sensual textures (and be sure to check out the video’s Twin Peaks and general Lynchian drug dominated themes) hinting that whatever may be going on privately, it is also being filmed.

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With only ‘More Than You’ adopting what could be called an archetypal Moroder sound, the remaining 5 tracks flit around and lift from other periods in disco’s trajectory. ‘The Limit’ has thunderous drum machines and a disorientating, discordant percussion and spacey synth cords which bring to mind the early work of Jam & Lewis and their production credits with Cherelle and The SOS Band.

On the mid-tempo, sultrily breathy ‘GFE’ and stuttering ‘High On Love’, Harper artfully plays with eighties boogie music and the electro-disco of artists such as Shannon and Sinnamon’s 1982 hit ‘Thanks to You’ respectively. Like Ronika and her brilliant 2013 album Selectadisc, Class Actress understands and subverts her influences and musical passions wonderfully.

The closing tracks are the end of the road for our Actress where it’s dark and it’s dangerous now. ‘Love My Darkness’ is a frenzied tempo-changing bass track, the most contemporary sonically and more fractured R&B than the boogie-down before it.

‘Movies’ is like a good Lana Del Rey track and it’s only here that Harper’s charismatically arch, elastic and immediately identifiable voice sounds mannered. ‘The lights are down and you’re in some evening gown on a balcony’ could be standard Del Rey tropes, there’s even a reference to sleeping pills but it’s a fitting end to the spare but startling journey that Harper has taken us on. Avoid Giorgio Moroder’s recent disappointing comeback album, because in 2015, Class Actress may indeed be his most appropriate and successful collaborator.

About John Preston

South London based music obsessive with strong opinions about most things. Doubts Madonna has another good record in her but would love more than anything to be proved wrong.