“One of the lies that we tell ourselves is that we’re making progress.” That’s a quote from black activist H. Rap Brown, whose voice echoes throughout “Chumps,” where solemn pads hang so thick in the air that it’s easy to forget the beat underneath. Will Long’s first release for Comatonse, a three-part trilogy called Long Trax, is a requiem for change, mourning missed opportunities by returning to familiar ideas.
According to the label, run by Terre Thaemlitz, Long Trax“examines that pack of lies dubbed ‘change’ from the sweaty dance floor.” Appropriately for a record of that disposition, Long sticks to the basics: drum machines, synths and vocal samples. It’s subtle house music that often sounds more funereal than celebratory, a faint shadow of the spirit the genre often represents.
Long, who lives in Tokyo, is better known as the ambient producer Celer. That explains at least part of his approach to house music, which is slow and patient. It sounds like Thaemlitz is an influence, too. You could easily mistake the wounded rhythms and weary vocals of “Time Has Come” for DJ Sprinkles, who contributes “overdub” versions of every song.
Long Trax features seven of Long’s originals and seven Sprinkles overdubs. Long’s originals inhabit a lonely, forlorn world. The beats vary in speed and style, and drums are rarely the focal point. Voices bellow over endless expanses, while the synths sigh in resignation, layered like his ambient productions. More than an hour long, the first disc ofLong Trax is a meditative listen.
The overdubs ranges from tweaked versions to surprising overhauls. To the melancholy at the heart of “Time Has Come,” Thaemlitz adds one of her signature descending basslines, amplifying both its dour mood and its dance floor utility. She puts a sputtering breakbeat below “Under-Currents,” turning it from a moody murmur into something more hopeful. Her shades of optimism provide rich contrast to Long’s solemnity.
Thaemlitz is a fan of Long—she picked his Simultaneity as one of her favourite albums of this year—and she helps draw out his talent in house music that’s as engaging as his other work. His solemn grooves are universally poignant. It’s music you can take solace in, commiserate with, or find joy in. Long Trax bares itself with an emotional honesty that feels necessary—not just in the context of dance music’s social climate, but also at the end of an incredibly demoralizing year.