In typical fashion, Acts Without Error is a sprawling song cycle that traverses vast terrain both aesthetically and psychologically. Not unlike a William Burroughs novel (Cities of the Red Night comes to mind), its construction at first blush feels a bit random. It's only after repeated spins that the complex relations between its myriad components really snap into focus. Consisting of a single, sprawling synth-drone split into three movements ("SCI Pro One," "Philadelphia, PA," and "September 2010"), side A is the sound of Harris descending into pure psychic zero: 19-plus minutes of an eerily wailing air-raid siren buried at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Eventually, a clanging groove emerges, one whose distant lurch and throb wouldn't sound at all out of place on Pre-Cert Home Entertainment.
The trio of tracks on side B definitely seems informed by Wierd Records and Italians Do It Better. But where those camps sit at the crossroads of post-punk nostalgia and dance floor pragmatism, Harris' vision is far more potently emotional. In fact, he's not unlike Xiu Xiu's Jamie Stewart in this regard: a singer-songwriter and art-song composer who just so happens to be deeply inspired by synth pop. The three cuts in question are definitely mix-worthy (in particular the coolly melodic "Kraft Durch Freude"), it's just that each one has baroque-like architecture with intensely probing lyrics and painstakingly arranged vocals. Daryl Seaver, who plays with Harris in the group Meager Sunlight, deserves a hearty shout-out here, as she makes key contributions in both departments, especially on the ghostly ambient "Worthy of Worship," wherein her elegantly reverb-dipped voice plays the role of ethereal other to Lazy Magnet's tortured protagonist.
And tortured Harris most certainly is: on "Clear," the side's densest stretch of music, he despairs, "I've lost my way in my work." It's a queer admission for such a prolific artist. But if that's what it takes to create a fantastical record like Acts Without Error, then here's to never finding yourself.