Now based in Tokyo, where the source material for this album was first aired during a performance in a temple, Will Long has made Tightrope one of his finest pieces of music to date. Presented as one epic collage clocking in at over an hour long, Tightrope is in fact made up of 24 separate sections that have been layered ad infinitum in order to create a work of silky serenity that floats and flows majestically.
The sources are myriad, ranging from ringtones to the crackle of a log fire, but they are manipulated in such a way as to blend seamlessly into one another as one extended, gently ebbing wave. Long himself claims to be able to pick apart and identify individual elements still but to the casual listener Tightrope will more likely present itself as an extended exercise in meditative contemplation.
There isn’t a great deal of obvious darkness present, save, perhaps, the subtly throbbing undertones around the twenty-and thirty-minute marks. Instead Tightrope concentrates on lighter textures and becoming, through repetition and the sense of nebulous familiarity it breeds, a kind of musical palimpsest where sounds are layered and brushed away, layered and brushed away until what remains is a scarcely decipherable patchwork of elements that only give up their secrets in brief, prismatic flashes.
There are moments of crumble and collapse – occasions where the music will fall back to rest on a tone whose presence is everlasting but rarely felt – and this allows Long to build again. Even still, the general ambience never strays too far from where it began and the pace has a kind of slow-motion stateliness to it that lulls and soothes without ever losing focus.
Will Long spoke about Tightrope almost as though it was an act of throwaway flippancy, remarking that at first it was a simple matter of making, mixing and moving on. It was only afterwards that he began to realise the music’s importance as a series of “collected, unplanned memories… things I can hear and relate to”. For the listener without these cues it’s more likely this music will function as a means of discreetly exposing an emotional core; provoking memories of times and places hitherto unlinked to the music but which resonate at a cerebral depth only the music can access. It’s a powerful and sometimes perilous technique that this artist is consistently adept at and, as ever, Will Long’s poise and patience is absolutely perfect here. Tightrope may be his most affecting statement yet.