Switched On – Francis Harris: Thresholds (Scissor and Thread)

francis-harris

What’s the story?

Francis Harris has already delivered a brace of thoughtful electronic albums in Lelend (2012) and Minutes of Sleep (2014), where he has considered some of our slowest moving and abstract ‘virtualities’. The train of thought continued with two albums as half of the Aris Kindt duo, but now Harris turns back to a solo identity for Thresholds.

In it, he ‘aspires to sonic universality and the presentation of a fully formed psychoacoustical world’, though it is not an ‘album of ideas’. In the commentary from his label, ‘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’.

What’s the music like?

While it is certainly important to consider the elements above, Thresholds stands on its own two feet for the listener who is completely new to its thoughts and sound worlds.

Often these worlds cross over, the album acting as the sonic equivalent of being on a train journey, or standing still while observing an object pass against overhead against a starry backdrop. The most effective tool here is the wide range of percussion, some of it very subtle, that Harris has at his disposal. The instruments and sounds, both acoustic and electronic, decorate the slow awakening of Useless Machines, then pepper Rebstock Fold with what feels like spots of electronic rain as a slower moving sequence of chords takes hold.

Harris keeps a background haze to proceedings, while a variety of musical languages unfold in the foreground. Many of these are slow moving, honing in on certain details, such as the muffled trumpet solo or vocal snippets that feature in Earth Moves. The dappled colours created by the music are often softly mesmerising. The title track, for instance, has digital chattering in the foreground while chords shift slowly in the background. The trumpet reappears on Speculative Nature Of Purposive Form as part of a largely static soundscape, but Cut Up responds to this with a good deal of nervous energy, its percussive buzzing suggesting an outlying jazz influence.

Does it all work?

Yes. These thoughtful compositions are consistently engaging but work as a whole in shifting the focus of the mind to calmer areas, the listener taking in the musical activity around the stereo picture but able to let it run on its way simultaneously.

Is it recommended?

Yes – Francis Harris makes ambient music with a difference, its intricate construction creating all sorts of moving patterns that the listener can either latch on to or allow to run free. Its imaginative colours and textures reveal something different with each encounter.

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