Published Oct 18, 2018With a back catalogue three digits long, and more than a few stage names, it feels a bit like New Yorker Francis Harris is starting over. This third release under his own name fuses club beats with ambient, jazz and even new classical influences.
It all comes together with remarkable fluidity. Four years in the making, Trivial Occupations may have sat on the side of his desk for much of that time, but it is hardly an afterthought. "At First a Wide Space" opens the proceeding and is as advertised: expansive, if somewhat constrained by its three-minute runtime — a suitable launch pad.
"St. Catherine and the Calm" is one of the album's major works, every bit as grand and enigmatic as its title suggests. Drone synths and delicate piano ride on top of a comfortable bed of ambient noise before, almost imperceptibly, a beat gets up out of that bed. It doesn't dominate the piece the way it would on a club track; instead, it transforms an otherwise pleasant ambient offering into something more vital and energetic.
It's a technique he returns to, with a distorted industrial beat on "Dalloway," a muted house beat on "Recital of Facts" and what may be the world's most understated funk on "Minor Forms."
The album's other main distinguishing feature is its vocal contributions. Genevieve Marentette absolutely kills it on the album's title track. (She's accompanied by a group of equally talented jazz players: Robb Reddy on tenor sax, Dave Harrington on guitar and Will Shore on vibes.) Next, Cameroon-born Kaïssa turns the aforementioned distorted beat into a reverential tribute to African rhythms.
There's a lot going on over the course of this hour-long disc, but its diversity never feels disjointed. Harris has produced a beautifully constructed late-night listen. (Scissor & Thread)