Scissor + Thread
While Francis Harris is best known for his techno work as Adultnapper his solo work — as head of the forward-looking Brooklyn dance imprint and one of my favourite current labels Scissor + Thread — brought the producer to even loftier heights. His last LP Leland was heavily personal introspective and nearly flawless. Dedicated to his father it unveiled his penchant for soft-focus compositions weaving opulent down-tempo techno into lush ambient soundscapes organic post-classical instrumentation and sparse vocal tracks. It felt less at home on late-night dancefloors and more fitting for the sun-drenched bistro of our dreams — Leland would pair nicely with a walnut-beet pesto panini.
If Leland pulled Harris away from the dancefloor Minutes of Sleep has him inverting even further into the recesses of his mind. The faint contours of deep house can still be found on tracks like “Radiofreeze” and “What She Had” but Sleep has him pushing further into avant-garde territories. Harris now seems more concerned with shaping tone using plaintive horns (“Lean Back”) the melancholy vocals of Gry Bagøien (“You Can Always Leave”) and moody violins (“Minutes of Sleep”). Those familiar with Leland will immediately recognize Harris’ musical toolbox but Sleep is an effort that’s more nuanced still — it’s a piece inspired by the passing of his mother and the rush of competing emotions is evident.
While confidence isn’t typically a term associated with grief — Sleep ’s central themes we’d guess are mortality and memory — there’s a sense of patience comfort and attention to detail in Harris’ melancholy. By its closing a reimagining of “Dangerdream” a track appearing earlier on the album it’s hard not to imagine a hospital room: All intermittent static droning strings and snippets of disembodied Spanish dialogue it perfectly balances austerity and awe-inducing virtuosity. It’s about as far from club fare as you can get but even away from his native terrain Harris is at the top of his game.