The pseudonym for songwriter/producer Riyan Kidwell, Cex works from a palette of moody atmospherics; tinny, loud, and occasionally funky drums; and a harmonic swirl of calling-and-responding male and female voices.
Popping up throughout Actual Fucking, Cex’s sixth full-length album and first in three years, are things like twinkling organ, folky acoustic guitar, Middle Eastern-ish ululations, yawning orchestral strings, and a little disco wah-wah. The record incorporates contributions from members of Nice Nice, The Dismemberment Plan, Joan of Arc, and several other mid-level hipster musos. Most of the songs deal with the concept of hedonism — hanging out, giving in, and, yes, actual fucking. Adding to the quaintly forced subtext, the c.d. sleeve folds out into a 13-page compilation of several sexual confessionals by anonymous writers. Some of the stories are pretty funny. All of them are exceedingly raw.
Hurting the concept more than the music itself, the record groans beneath the weight of an unsatisfied urge (pun intended). For all of the filthy lyrics, brutally detailed descriptions of hot action, and sly references to cheesy porn soundtracks, Actual Fucking can’t be what it is not, though it struggles in vain to the contrary. Actual Fucking is music, and as a phenomenon that can’t be seen, tasted, touched, or smelled, and that is all metaphor, Actual Fucking sorely lacks the one major ingredient that would spell a monumental conceptual coup for Kidwell and company: actual fucking.-Anthony Mariani