Minutes Of Sleep isn't the wrenching epitaph you might expect from its backstory—it's more of an attempt to keep calm in a fierce storm of emotions. The record begins with a bluster of ambient noise. "Hems" and "Dangerdream" are both heady drone pieces touched by Greg Paulus' trumpet and the mournful cello of Emile Abramyan. From there, things start to take shape with the more rhythmic "Radiofreeze." Harris channels his grief into something almost sublime, where even the simplest sounds are layered beyond easy comprehension. The album's few nods towards traditional house music are built like pillars of marble, with kick drums that lumber listlessly ("Me To Drift," "What She Had") or dance delicately in suspension ("You Can Always Leave").
"You Can Always Leave" is the crux of Minutes Of Sleep, and one of Harris's finest moments. It breathes in and out with the organic quality that defines the new music on his label, Scissor & Thread, slowly rising to a gentle climax with vocalist Gry's heartbreaking lyrics. The words might seem like generic club fare—"We go dancing in electric lights and beats, fantasies/ Till the morning, till the morning/ Breaks the night"—but they take on enormous significance when you realize they were written about the night Harris's mother died. The song exemplifies the LP's most striking quality—with a pianist, drummer and keyboardist on board, Minutes Of Sleep feels more like an album from a band than a house record. Harris himself used live samples almost exclusively, avoiding synthesizers or anything else that might sound artificial.
That warm and distinctly human sound palette matches the album's life-cycle sequencing. Minutes Of Sleep drowsily brings itself to life in its opening run, then peaks in the middle before settling back down to a jazzy murmur with crestfallen moments like "Blues News" and "New Rain"—ruminative songs that feel dejected and hopeful at the same time.
Minutes Of Sleep's conclusion is appropriately enigmatic, whichever way you let it close—with the title track, a downtempo number that sounds like Harris pulling himself back up and walking on, or with Terre Thaemlitz' stunning 14-minute remix of "Dangerdream," which is tacked on at the end. Thaemlitz takes the same approach to composition and sound design as Harris, but pulls everything apart and lays it bare, giving us a peek into the core components of his earthy approach to house. It's a bewildering end to a striking album, a record that endows dance music with raw emotional weight without becoming maudlin or theatrical. Minutes Of Sleep is every bit as intricate and tragic as the feelings it tries to translate.
Mon / 24 Feb 2014
04. Lean Back
05. You Can Always Leave
06. Me To Drift
07. What She Had
08. Blues News
09. New Rain
10. Minutes Of Sleep
11. Dangerdream (How Che Guevara's Death And Bob Dylan's Life Militarized Brigate Rosse)