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“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.
Will Long seemed to spring from nowhere when he released a trio of the year’s best house EPs – all of which are collected on Long Trax – without any fanfare. In fact he’s been active for years, producing billowing drones under a variety of monikers, the most acclaimed of which is Celer. His move into deep house territory is as apt as it is surprising, and is perfectly positioned on Terre Thaemlitz’s reliable Comatonse imprint. Thaemlitz even takes the time to add her own personal touches, as DJ Sprinkles, to each track, padding out Long’s euphoric, minimal compositions with her unmistakable square wave bass lines and clipped percussive elements. But it’s Long’s originals that have the biggest impact – while the DJ Sprinkles edits work perfectly in a club setting, his tracks are masterfully restrained, the incremental changes only making sense after repeat listens. It’s serious lights-down, eyes-shut material that recalls another era of deep house – nobody mention Disclosure.
「yoin callback / 余韻コールバック」
– Duenn （音）
– Will Long （写真）
– 調 原作 （コンピューター制御）
■場所：ヴァルト アート スタジオ
Non sorprende trovarsi davanti al monumentale lavoro di Will Long e constatare la disarmante semplicità con la quale la sua musica riesce a scavare veri e propri solchi nell’anima. Beat dopo beat, con la sola forza del suo essere House. Long Trax viene pubblicato dalla Comatose Recordings di Terre Thaemlitz aka Dj Sprinkles in una preziosa raccolta in doppio CD o diviso su sette vinili contenuti in tre separate uscite, tutte in edizione limitata con le cover illustrate da Tsuji Aiko.
“Ho sempre amato l’House music, ed in questo momento posso dire che questo suono rappresenta molti aspetti della mia attuale esistenza, perché storicamente si lega a molti avvenimenti sociali che sento vicini. Dove l’ambient o la musica sperimentale sono ascoltati in luoghi solitari, la musica dance è assorbita invece all’interno di clubs affollati, e questo è molto interessante per me adesso. Ora penso che molte delle cose che volevo comunicare attraverso la musica non funzionavano bene con l’ambient o la sperimentazione, o forse sono semplicemente cambiato dopo dieci anni produzioni ambient.”
Nato nel 1980 nel Mississippi, William Thomas Long ha cominciato a produrre musica ambient e sperimentale dopo gli studi di filosofia e giornalismo, trasferendosi prima in California e successivamente in Indonesia e Giappone, paese nel quale risiede e sembra aver trovato stabilità.
“Il tamburo è stato il primo vero strumento che abbia suonato, ho iniziato a produrre House music poco prima della nascita di mia figlia, ed ho potuto osservarla mentre imparava a seguire il ritmo ed a divertirsi con questo durante gli ultimi due anni. Non c’è nulla di sperimentale in tal proposito, ed è una cosa che mi piacerebbe continuare a fare.”
E’ bene lasciare da parte ogni artificio, concentrarsi sull’essenziale e lasciar partire questi sette lunghissimi brani nei quali pochissimi elementi riescono a costruire un viaggio unico ed estremamente profondo. Un suono che varia in piccoli anfratti quasi impercettibili e che se visto con distacco non rende la sua grandezza.
Il groove è catturato nella sua essenza, in un battito costante che non fa riferimento a nessun retaggio funk o disco, è metronomico, lineare ma allo stesso tempo caldo ed avvolgente grazie a quelle spire si synth che sembrano far poggiare le strutture ritmiche su un materasso avvolto di seta ed a quei sample vocali che rendono eteree anche le sfumature più terrene.
Non è distante, per certi versi, il suo passato nel progetto Celer, quell’attitudine malinconica nella stesura delle melodie è qui esaltata dalla fusione con il ritmo ma è pur sempre vicina all’ambient. E’ dance espressa come fermo immagine di una mente intenta nell’atto di ballare, sensazioni e pensieri di chi vive il dancefloor come passo che vada oltre il crudo divertimento.
“L’estetica minimale che puoi riscontrare non è assolutamente intenzionale come potrebbe sembrare. Faccio uso di un setup veramente basic e credo che sia più giusto preservare l’integrità nuda e cruda degli strumenti che utilizzo piuttosto che saturare la musica con strati di plugin o effetti senz’anima. Anche molta della musica ambient che ho prodotto in passato è stata registrata seguendo questo modus operandi. Inoltre, se provate ad ascoltare alcuni brani house classici, noterete che questi sono veramente semplici e fatti con pochissimi elementi. A mio modo di vedere, questo è lontano dal concetto di minimalismo, è anzi un focus sulla ricchezza delle strutture.”
Infonde ipnosi, calore e passione, perché nel suo disegno complessivo sembra fondersi in un’unica soundtrack che lascia immaginare la notte, il sudore caldo, gli spazi chiusi e fumosi e il movimento filtrato attraverso i frames di una bianca luce stroboscopica. Per ognuno dei sette brani, Dj Sprinkles confeziona la rispettiva overdub, versioni vicine alle stesure originali in quasi tutti i casi, e che nello specifico aggiungono quel tocco di calore concentrato sui bassi, su soluzioni armoniche dub e su una serie di rifiniture ritmiche attuate attraverso l’utilizzo di percussioni, tamburi e piattini vari. Un lavoro che arricchisce il dettaglio e solidifica questi battiti andando a completare un album House la cui bellezza cristallina non potrà non farvi innamorare. Ascoltarlo sarà immedesimarsi in un mantra ritmico nel quale poter riflettere, ricordare, progettare il futuro o semplicemente abbandonarsi al ballo.
“Parte tutto dalla voce, sulla quale costruisco poi ritmo ed accordi. Ho lavorato ad ogni brano come se fosse un singolo, non pensavo all’album nel momento in cui ho iniziato, ed inoltre adoro i brani che sanno stare in piedi da soli. Seguendo questo approccio non sento il bisogno di reinventarmi costantemente od avere il vincolo di cambiare ogni volta che inizio un lavoro. Tendo a considerare tutto questo come una semplice e continua evoluzione dei temi che sto affrontando.”
E’ un lavoro importante per l’House, perché affronta il tema della dance seguendone il modus operandi originario e guardando il tutto con gli occhi di chi inevitabilmente vive, assorbe e prova a decodificare il mondo durante questi difficili anni.
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.
Will Long X DJ Sprinkles’ journey to the heart of deep house culminates in the third and final volume in a series of three, offering the broadest yet most subtle, spine-tingling session of the lot, presenting the former’s raw and ‘floor-ready originals backed by the latter’s inimitably sumptuous overdubs.
Conceptually rooted in the queer, black politics of NYC’s late ‘80s and early ‘90s house scene – where Terre Thaemlitz cut her teeth as DJ Sprinkles – the series can be viewed as a vital reminder of that scene’s original values and sense of social democracy, especially when contrasted with the glut of contemporary, commodified representations of that music which sorely miss the mark, or weren’t even aware of the scene’s provenance to begin with.
Make no mistake, though; this is no lecture or snub at younger producers making deep house. Rather, it is evidence of the original form’s latent potential to still generate rare, precious feelings which have been lost or glossed over with subsequent, detached and over-produced translations of its original syntax and intent.
“Deep” is the key word here on many levels, from their poignant use of historical samples by civil rights pioneers Bayard Rustin, Jesse Jackson and Kathleen Cleaver, to the unfiltered innocence of Will Long’s productions and Sprinkles’ corresponding, pensile overdubs, which make utterly incredible use of the frequency spectrum to reveal acres of space in the upper registers and, on the other hand, an honestly breathtaking application of layered subbass tones that are just impossible to describe.
This one’s a little bit special…
Available from Boomkat
Second in a series of three releases, a 45 Minute doublepack featuring some of the most engrossing House music you’ll likely hear this year or any other…
We’re still dazed from the 1st volume, but Will Long and DJ Sprinkles have already cued up their 2nd session, with Mint / Clay landing handsome on Terre Thaemlitz’ Comatonse.
The format and aesthetic remains the same as Vol.1, namely two raw pieces by Will Long, backed with extended overdubs by Sprinkles amounting to thee deepest house this side of Larry Heard’s nuclear love bunker, all subtly executed and held up as a comparison to the aesthetics and intentions (or, ironically, the excess and lack of) of that sound in relief of current, conceptually-detached takes on the original NYC deep house sound which Sprinkles was instrumental in shaping as a downtown DJ during that formative era.
Again, Will Long, who’s best known for his experimental ambient work as Celer, proves that it ain’t what you’ve got but what you know and can do with it that matters. Under-Currents places sparing samples of T.R.M. Howard – a mentor of Jesse Jackson – amidst a dream sequence of carbonated hi-hats and lingering chords urged by a plump bass drum, whilst Get In & Stay In nods to civil right activist and current Georgia congressional representative John Lewis in a lush haze of crepuscular chromatics and loping swing.
On the flipsides, DJ Sprinkles contributes another pair of incredible overdubs, lending Long’s minimal elements a richer, fleshlier feel, whether with additional breakbeats or nimbly lowering the bass and layering up spirited flutes and Rhodes. Suffice to say, they’re absolute mind-melters.
Quite crucially, the concept never gets in the way of the music, perfectly demonstrating the symbiotic nature of the music and politics in the way we imagine they intended; I mean it’s not like they want you to sit in a corner of the club pondering their ideas, but they’re definitely worth bearing in mind, especially for the DJs, dancers and promoters who act as gatekeepers for this music.
Available directly from Boomkat
In a recent Resident Advisor documentary on The Black Madonna, she had this to say: “Any of us that are lucky enough to be a part of underground dance music, we do have a responsibility to share certain values about race, class, gender, economic equality, everything. All of those things are built into dance music.” Anyone who knows their dance history understands the fundamental principles of unity and inclusivity which clubs and their music once promoted. But looking around at today’s scene, only a handful of artists are still carrying the torch.
One musician who hasn’t forgotten the politics of dance is Terre Thaemlitz, aka the much-loved DJ Sprinkles. In her seminal album, Midtown 120 Blues, Thaemlitz used the deep house template to critique club culture, packaging an important message in a format that would deliver itself to the right people. Since then her work has dealt with many subjects, from Japan’s notorious club legislation to the informational overload of the modern age, embracing the philosophy that the medium is the message.
The latest project on Thaemlitz’s Comatonse label hands the reins over to Will Long, an American producer who now, like Thaemlitz herself, lives in Tokyo. Long isn’t known for his dance productions, previously putting out ambient and experimental works on labels like basic_sounds, Further and Absence of Wax. His take on dance music owes much to the work of Thaemlitz, composed of the same drifting chords, spare rhythms and dissociated vocal samples that made up much of the aforementioned Midtown 120 Blues.
Where Long’s work steps away from Thaemlitz’s is its minimal, durational structure, presumably born from a mind used to crafting ambient soundscapes. Both of Long’s original tracks stretch to around ten minutes, suitable for only the most heavy-lidded dancefloors. “Time Has Come” leads with an ultra-stripped beat, gaseous synth notes swelling and blooming like clouds. The vocal snips, straight out of the Sprinkles playbook, encourage major action, even revolution, but the precise goal is lost. Set adrift in the misty arrangement, they seem to symbolise the lost voices of those who used this music to seek change. Sprinkles supplies a typically classy ‘Overdub’ to the track, bolstering it with a beefy low-end wriggle that makes those ten minutes slip by all the quicker.
The B-side’s “Chumps” takes a similar approach to the first, just with a more muscular, ticking rhythm. Yet making an important statement does not necessarily mean great music, and it’s here that DJ Sprinkles steps in to unify the two. Her “Chumps Overdub” is easily the most beautiful thing on here, the vocals filtered so they trickle like water, a scything horn sound adding a hint of drama in its own timeless, bittersweet fashion.
Long’s melancholic critique of our culture of empty words, of ‘hope’ and ‘now’ and ‘future’, is a point eloquently made in his two productions. They’re meditative, minimal slices of house that reward interpretation and deep listening, swimming against the current to show that more isn’t always more. But it takes the guiding dubs of DJ Sprinkles to bring out the pure beauty latent in these sounds, without ever sacrificing the message in the music. “We’re not making progress,” the sample points out bitterly, and perhaps it’s true. But if we examine this idea, conveyed through such mesmerising music, we might be able to start again.
Terre Thaemlitz, aka deep house persona DJ Sprinkles, isn’t one to mince around with appealing to the masses. The latest release from Thaemlitz’s Tokyo based Comatonse Recordings sees the label debut of Will Long (aka Celer) with his ep ‘Purple/Blue,’ and it’s described almost as a challenge to the empty and repetitive trends of deep house music. Forgetting the politics, it begins a series of three vinyl sets entitled ‘Long Trax,’ with two extended minimal productions from the usually experimental Long, accompanied by two soulful overdubs at the hands of Sprinkles. The simplicity of synth chords, percussion and sampled vocals in a1 ‘Time has come’ are welcoming, however Sprinkles’ overdub of ‘Chumps’ on the reverse is the standout track of the release. Fluttering strings and wobbly effects make it feel as if your head’s been punted into space; altogether producing an ambient record as fit for the dancefloor as any ever heard. We’re waiting eagerly for the second offering come September 8th.