Beginning with 2012’s ‘Leland’ New York artist Francis Harris has been doing a deep dive into the sonic swells and contrapuntal granularities that articulate our most abstract, and sometimes slowest moving, virtualities. Through found sound, analog synthesis, and concise instrumentation Harris has delivered works that transcend the diagram-matic exposition often found in electronic music in an attempt to redraw the landscape of how such music is received and understood. Rather than valorize the fragment, the ambient, even in some cases the song, Harris’s albums offer networks of complex interiorities that endeavor to act as whole worlds unto themselves replete with memory, possibility, loss, and a radiant albeit tenuous hopefulness for the future.
While previous albums, most notably Leland and Minutes of Sleep (2014) as well as two albums released as one half of the duo Aris Kindt have relied on singular thematic and narrative drives that were often personal, collaborative, or hermetic in nature, Thresholds is an album that aspires to sonic universality and the presentation of a fully formed psychoacoustical world. That being said it is not an “album of ideas”. Inspired by the ecological and political upheavals of the present and the role of speculative thought as an avenue of global transformation, Thresholds is the work of a mature artist fully in control of his powers. Both expansive and nuanced the album widens the aperture of the affective possibilities of the electronic assemblage; themes skip from one track to the next, elevating and informing each other in tangible fields of abstract figuration. The titles, while often heady, concisely allude to strategies implicit in the construction and arrangement of the works: Cut Up, within the context of the album, is exactly that. Luck Takes a Step juxtaposes stately synths with just the right touch of playful fluctuation and latent atonality. The title track itself is a knotted mass of uncertainty and propulsive beats the breakdown of which is a nervous series of fits and starts that resonate not just within the track but as the fulcrum of the entire album: the threshold of our Threshold.
No track overstays its welcome and is a dizzyingly pure inward gaze that is first and foremost an album about connection. Guest instrumentation by Dave Harrington, Mark Nelson (Pan American), Will Shore, Greg Paulus and Gareth Quinn Redmond. Guest vocals by Eliana Glass. Mixed by Phil Weinrobe
Verdict: A sporadic sound of a plucked instrument falls like drops of rain as warm swelling pads and strings slowly rise, it’s the wonderful organic flow of the first arrangement that sends you on this meditative path that is ‘Thresholds‘. There are tracks that shimmer, rise high and float gently across the ether, while others bubble under the surface, pulsating within lush soundscapes. The depth of instruments, found sounds and occasional vocals make up a beautifully complex moving tapestry of compositions. A pure joy of a listening experience, the sounds intertwine and combine creating a biotic world of music, like being able to hear the microscopic movement of nature itself and all its wondrous sounds. Don’t be fooled by the deceptive cover art, a depicted vision of a cold and clinical environment, the music is anything but. An uplifting and positive work that seems to reveal more and more of its many layers with each listen.
A1. Useless Machines
A2. And Everything Is One Thing After Another
A3. Rebstock Fold
B1. Earth Moves
B3. Luck Takes A Step
C1. I Can Still See Us
C2. Speculative Nature Of Purposive Form
C3. Cut Up
D1. New Pastoral
D2. On That Occasion, Landeau
D3. Every Degree Of Distance
Francis Harris – Thresholds available now on Scissor & Thread
Double vinyl & digital: Thresholds | Francis Harris (bandcamp.com)