Search The Line of Best Fit
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Fred again... takes off but doesn't quite land with Actual Life 3

"Actual Life 3"

Release date: 28 October 2022
Fred Again Actual Life 3 Album Artwork
28 October 2022, 15:40 Written by Chris Todd

"You gotta hit em with that fourteen-minute version, let that shit marinate, where they just engulfed in that shit," said P Diddy back in 2009. "I hate when motherfuckers play a four-minute version, you can’t get into nothing in a four-minute version."

He’s spot on, there’s no journey in a four-minute version. With the TikTok driven instant-gratification, everything now has resulted in recent number ones by Eliza Rose’s hookup with Interplanetary Criminal, or LF System’s summer dominating "Afraid To Feel" barely scratching beyond the three-minute mark.

So what of Fred again... (Fred Gibson)? His third album Actual Life 3 continues his diaristic approach to albums, and with him being known to simply fire up the laptop to sketch out a jam if he can’t find anything to listen to, it makes you wonder if some of those made the cut on this album. With most tunes here barely hitting that four minute ‘sweet spot’ and with house music generally working better over a larger span of time, there’s no space here for build ups, build downs, or massive breakdowns such as the wild euphoria on arguably one of 2022’s best dance tracks – "Lights Out," where he made a surprising diva out of The XX’s Romy.

All the sounds are in the right place and fresh for 2022, the similarly sophisticated breakbeats also served up by the likes of Bicep, the skippy UK Garage influences, the emotive 90's trance synths, the structure of hip-hop, the big dubstep influenced B-Lines. There is some great material here from an artist who is not only comfortable working under Brian Eno, but both Stormzy and Sheeran have him on speed-dial (Gibson produced significant chunks of their recent output). On the Four Tet hookup and album highlight "Delilah" he proves he can vibe with less mainstream artists, plus it takes some serious skill as a producer to extract something as floor-fillingly satisfying as "Turn OutThe Lights" – a standalone single with the creatively redundant Swedish House Mafia.

Dropping three introverted tracks at the mid-point derails the album a little, and when followed by the rolling bass and pounding 4/4 of another highpoint "Danielle," the effect is jarring. Even the most basic algorithm would know big room bangers such as the excellent Anjunabeats-influenced "Clara "doesn’t belong next to the sweet ambient strings of "Winnie," despite them being impeccably produced.

Gibson’s talent isn’t in question here, there’s a reason he’s built a reputation as one of the UK's best production talents and it’s in full display in Actual Life 3. However, it's hard to put a finger on what the album's intent is. Is it a pop album? The way the track-list pulls in different directions indicates this. It could be a dance album, but if it is, why are the tracks so short? This is something we'll have to work out on our own. One thing's for sure though; the extended versions are gonna kill.

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