When Francis Harris started out making the album he eventually named Leland it was going to be a club LP, with similar production aesthetics as his output as Adultnapper. The intended home was Steve Bug's Poker Flat imprint. During this time however, Harris' father's health declined sharply, leading to his eventual death in February 2010. "It became a whole different album," Harris recently told Magnetic Magazine. "It was obvious in the process that it wasn't going to come out on Poker Flat, it just wasn't that sort of sound anymore."
As Adultnapper, Harris has turned out an intriguing body of work which, while undoubtedly more cerebral than your average techno producer's catalogue, has nonetheless worn its dance floor-orientated intentions very much on its sleeve. Even as far back at 2007's Tewa, though, there have been signs that Harris was prone to presenting a more melancholic landscape than the sturdy drums and tightly-packed percussion usually associated with Adultnapper. Leland is the realisation of those earlier suggestions.
Reverting to his own name has allowed Harris to produce arguably his most organic, ostensibly his most honest and without doubt his saddest body of work to date. The first few times I listened through I was unaware of the album's backstory, but even without this knowledge it was impossible to come away without a sense of it; sorrow permeates almost every aspect of every track. Some of this is down to the collaborations. Greg Paulus' trumpet has never sounded as heartbroken, Emil Eabramyan's achingly beautiful cello floats like ash on the wind, and Danish singer Gry Bagoien contributes delicate, lingering vocals to a handful of songs. However, it's Harris' production itself that delivers the majority of the emotional payload.
More often than not, it's the instrumental tracks that work best on Leland, "Pensum" and the title track being prime examples. Both are given plenty of time to make their unhurried point and do so beautifully, building tension with patiently layered percussion and warm rising strings and releasing it with soft, subtle drops. "Living Lips"—a personal favourite—is firmer and more purposeful but still unerringly serene, piano and cello creating a velvet carpet lying thick across the rest of the track. More light-hearted is "Lost Found," with a bouncy, metallic synth line and Gry's whimsical vocals flitting between upbeat and dour with admirable athleticism. But the overriding tone is inescapably serious, an assembly of drifting forms against a backdrop of low, grey skies and endless dew-clad hills.
Leland isn't breaking any boundaries in terms of house or techno production, but its simplicity is unquestionably one of its strengths. Despite being so heavily influenced by such a personal event in Harris' life, it remains inherently accessible. You can safely assume there won't be many electronic albums as revealing, sincere and engaging released this year.
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Tracklist: Francis Harris - Leland 01. Plays I Play
02. Pensum (Vinyl Edit)
04. Living Lips (Vinyl Edit)
05. Of the Field
07. Pharoah In the Morning
08. Whether It Was
09. Picture Us
10. Close Air
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