And like that, it’s 2014. The dust has only just settled from the New Year debauchery, and Sydney has sadly bid farewell to the iconic venue The Abercrombie.

But life goes on – it must – as a slew of salacious club gigs has already been announced for the start of this year. One such show is The Orb’s return to Sydney at Oxford Art Factory on Saturday January 18, which will prefigure their performance at Victoria’s annual Rainbow Serpent Festival. Comprised of Alex Paterson and German techno auteur Thomas Fehlmann, The Orb have been plying their trade since the late ’80s, notching up a whopping 12 albums along the way – their most recent was More Tales From The Orbservatory, which dropped in October.

Credited with pioneering the ambient house genre, Paterson recalled recently that, “We wanted to take ambient to the streets and give it to the working class… up until us, I guess, ambient had this clichéd image where it was all [Brian] Eno and highbrow.” Well and truly succeeding in their pursuit of this mission, The Orb established themselves as one of the most enduring acts to emerge from the UK acid house era, with their tracks remixed by club monoliths like Aphex Twin, Orbitaland Danny Tenaglia. But let’s keep looking forward, not back, and turn our focus to…

North American producer Francis Harris, who is renowned for his output as Adultnapper and for his Sycophant Slags project with Mr. C. Harris will release a new album entitled Minutes Of Sleep under his birth name on the Scissor & Thread label that he oversees with Anthony Collins in February. The American has accumulated over 40 EPs and remixes for respected labels like Poker Flat, Mule Electronic and Get Physical throughout his career, endearing himself to Sydneysiders through several standout performances, namely at Subsonic’s inaugural End of the Line bash at Favela and at the Subsonic Music Festival in 2012.

Having now discarded his Adultnapper moniker, Harris recently released the lead-off single from Minutes Of Sleep, ‘You Can Always Leave’, which features DanishvocalistGryBagøien and No Regular Play’s Greg Paulus, who contributes mournful trumpet interludes. ‘You Can Always Leave’ has been remixed by the enigmatic Terre Thaemlitz (AKA DJ Sprinkles), who delivers an atmospheric slice of refined, late-night lounge-infused house music.

As was the case with Harris’ debut album Leland, his second album traverses melancholic themes such as “memory, loss and profound grief”. Whereas Harris composed Leland as a requiem to his father, Minutes Of Sleep is heavily influenced by the recent passing of Harris’ mother. The resulting album offers listeners an immersive listening experience, exploring the outer regions of the dancefloor with a collection of brooding compositions that also reflect Harris’ mastery of modern classical and experimental influences.

Thaemlitz turns in another epic remix for the album with his 14-minute take on ‘Dangerdream (How Che Guevara’s Death and Bob Dylan’s Life Militarized Brigate Rosse)’, which complements its many intricate layers of sample-laden ambient soundscapes with plangent piano to create a haunting piece that evinces Thaemlitz’s exceptional attention to detail. The fact that this track is matched by the other compositions on Minutes Of Sleep is indicative of the album’s quality, which comes at dance music from a far more ambitious standpoint than one is used to. This is challenging dance music that avoids the pitfall of being pretentious. Don’t be put off by the motif of mourning – Harris has crafted an album that is highly emotive and contemplative without being slit-your-wrists gloomy.

I’m tipping rave reviews for Minutes Of Sleep when it drops next month – and if it doesn’t receive them, then there’s no justice in the music industry. But I suppose we already know there isn’t, don’t we?

LOOKING DEEPER

Saturday January 18
The Orb
Oxford Art Factory

Saturday January 25
Donato Dozzy
The Civic Underground

Monday January 27
Michael Mayer
Ivy Pool Club

Saturday February 1
Andy Weatherall
Oxford Art Factory

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