Francis Harris “Leland” (Scissor And Thread)

Francis Harris "Leland" (Scissor and Thread)Francis Harris, the DJ/producer who goes by the alter ego of Adultnapper is well know for his 12″ releases on a slew of electronic dance labels such as Simple, Mule Electronic, Poker Flat and Ransom Note. A few minutes into Plays I Play, the first track on Harris’ new album Leland, it’s gradual fade-in, uncanny keyboard melody, wistful female vocal and complete lack of percussion would seem to indicate that we’ve strayed far from the dance floor into some kind of waking dream. It’s not entirely unorthodox territory for Harris, whose productions have often had an introspective, shadowy aspect to them. Chalk it up to his formative years spent studying philosophy, touring with punk bands, and listening to too many Nick Cave records.

Released on the newly minted Scissor and Thread label, Leland is named for Harris’ late father and much of the album was composed in the year following his passing. Combining electronics with piano, cello, and trumpet, here, Harris has fashioned an offbeat form of chamber-techno. There are lovely vocal contributions from Danish vocalist Gry Bagoien, who haunts the aforementioned opening number with talk of “fantasies, memories and fairy tales.” Her bluesy, drowsy delivery is a curious meld of Billie Holiday and Bjork, the latter even more in evidence on lostfound, where her vocal phrasing bears just a little resemblance to Bjork’s I’ve Seen It All. Trumpet player Greg Paulus lends some noir-ish horn playing to the dubby, cloudy-day techno track Pensum and the more ambient, free form Pharoah In The Morning.

 

 


Francis Harris: “Pharoah In the Morning”

Although over half of the tracks on Leland could accurately be filed under electronic dance, there’s an organic feel to the album, partially due to the use of live instruments and analog production, but also by the subtle deployment of field recordings; Of The Field sounds like it was recorded in the morning following a rainstorm, while Picture Us has a desolate, windswept aspect to it. There’s also a tasteful amount of restraint afforded to these compositions, but they each retain just enough sonic embellishment to make them worthwhile journeys. Harris has brought minimal tech-house out into the open air, exposed it the the elements, and allowed it to make new roots in arable land.

Leland by Francis Harris will be available on Tuesday February 28th on a deluxe triple LP that includes a download of the album, or you can download Leland in high quality .wav or mp3 format from Scissor and Thread on halcyondigi.com

 

SCQ Rating: 81%
Confidence in one’s craft plays a key role in defining their genius. It’s a factor roundly assumed in regards to groundbreaking albums yet rarely probed beyond the parameters of what’s accessible and what’s challenging. We can all jot down on a napkin what distinguishes the Kid A of a particular band’s catalog from their more traditional fare, but the confidence to push those boundaries – which ensnared that first spark of creativity – typically slides to the backburner of our collective discourse.
Such a juicy issue, alas, requires a record with the right levels of audacity to incite discussion; I reckon Leland is one of those albums. Making Leland a two-disc set wouldn’t look at all arrogant; truth is, adding a mere eight seconds to its run-time would’ve left Francis Harris no choice. Yet where the confidence of Harris, better known by his alias Adultnapper, could be deduced by way of his recorded mass, his willingness to sabotage it all proves far more enticing. Here’s a collection of songs unobtrusive and meditative, so insular yet provocative, it would seem a serious blunder to stunt their potency within such a sprawling full-length. But that’s precisely what Leland accomplishes, surveying a flat horizon to let its minimal-techno arrangements graze, thereby hiding a treasure trove of euphoric movements beneath the bulk.
It takes a lot of confidence in oneself to assuredly conceal their best assets, but confidence in one’s listeners as well. For those of us constantly on the move, hearing Leland in its full two-hour stateliness will be a rare pleasure; for my part I’ve retained the same protocol since my first listen – choosing a random point in the album to tune in each time. Fragmented though that method may sound, it in no way distracts from Harris’ integrated electro-acoustic compositions. Dub-inflected lounge permeates “Pensum” and “Picture Us” but, with the addition of atmospheric trumpet, these tracks gather a mood less attached to cold rhythms. In fact, Harris infuses most of these house beats with a fair share of organic accompaniment, whether in the form of mournful cellos (“Whether Is Was”), auxiliary percussion (“Of the Field”) or warm vocals (“Plays I Play”) that are peppered sporadically throughout. Restrained but increasingly critical, these sly embellishments are among the countless discoveries, afforded by Harris’ bold vision, that will eventually grab you.
As long as there are lengthy albums, there will be artists heralding themselves for creating something decidedly un-commercial. Leland’s something else entirely; neither bloated, narcissistic, nor weighed down in conceptual themes, Harris’ methodology is more concerned with creating emotional space than cramming a full-length to its brim. Named after Harris’ deceased father, it’s clear that Leland has no room for dance-floor excess. Shape-shifting movements in posh house music and pastoral techno have rarely felt this pure-hearted or self-assured.