After a number of years listening to Celer’s slow, expansive take on ambient and drone sounds, I would have never expected Will Long to suddenly start making house music. But he has, in a series of three double 12” singles (and compiled into a double CD compilation), and it only takes a few minutes to realize that it is actually a very good combination. Even with the addition of drum machines, Long’s knack for creating warm, inviting spaces of electronic music is still vividly on display, and with some assistance from ambient legend Terre Thaemlitz (under the DJ Sprinkles guise), it may be heralding an entirely new direction in his work.
Through my own personal contact with Will Long, I was aware that he had a strong interest in house music and its various permutations for a number of years, and after thinking about it briefly, the amalgamation of the two styles makes perfect sense. Both are electronic-centric genres that strive to do a lot with very little as far as instrumentation goes, so joining the two is not as bizarre of a thought as it may seem.
In fact, the first few minutes of the opening “Time Has Come” establishes this: the light electronic drone that defines many Celer releases appears shaped into an organ-like passage that fits the house style, married to intentionally stiff, synthetic Roland drum machine beats. With samples of Civil Rights era speeches peppered throughout, the mood and sound is as fitting for 2016 as it would have been in 1986, albeit with Long at the command, the pace is more pensive and the mix is more intentionally skeletal.
These elements recur throughout the seven pieces on disc one. “Get in and Stay in” is more of a beat focused song, first a taut, stiff mass of hi-hat programming, and then a heavy kick leads the way, being more of the primary focus as the Celer-like drifting electronics surround the song in a warm, inviting haze. The latter half of “Under-Currents” especially embraces the beat, most explicitly via clinically sharp handclaps that cut through the mix wonderfully.
Each song features an overdubbed (not remixed or reworked) version by Terre Thaemlitz, using the DJ Sprinkles moniker that has been used primarily for dance and DJ related performances. Thaemlitz’s presence is perfectly fitting, being another artist who is well known for first a rich career in electronic ambient music, who then began to implement more in the way of conventional beats and rhythms under a different name.
The distinction between overdubbed and remixed is an important one, because Sprinkles mostly just adds elements to Long’s original recordings and minor production tricks. For example, “Time Has Come” has a slightly more bass-heavy presence, and the addition of a pulsating synth bassline throughout. “Daylight and Dark” has some treated hi-hat sounds and additional layers of sequenced synthesizer, and eventually a denser reverb sheen later on. The most dramatic addition from Sparkles is on “Under-Currents”: an additional drum loop appears right at first and stays throughout, as more electronics and layering make for a richer, more dance floor oriented performance that is a bit more distinct from Long’s original, but still retains its essential elements.
Even with the addition of beats, Will Long’s music is a bit too subtle and delicate to be fully club ready. Not that this is a shortcoming by any means, it is exactly what makes the music stand out. The overdubs by DJ Sprinkles/Terre Thaemlitz maybe push the recordings a bit more towards the dance floor, but the sound is much more intimate and cerebral, making it best enjoyed in quiet, intimate settings, rather than in a loud, thumping context that would obscure the delicate beauty of these works.