Posts from the Will Long Category

Like Will Long, I grew up in the United States’ Deep South in a town 20 minutes up the road from Memphis – not too far from where Long grew up in Mississippi. Being raised in a region where so many racial and social clashes have occurred, the Mid South has always had its (un)fair share of internalised division and strife, both politically and personally, between neighbourhoods and friends. In order to properly understand the perspective from which he’s creating this club-oriented music, one must come to understand the background Long has chosen to analyse in his work under his own name.

House music itself has a shared history in the collectively marginalised cultures of both racial and sexual minorities. The way that Long decided to explore these ideas of society in beat-driven electronic music is both a logical extension of his ambient sound as Celer and the idea that house music is a reflective culture, no doubt influenced by Long Trax collaborator Terre Thaemlitz aka DJ Sprinkles.

Here we find songs permeated with samples of civil rights leaders calling for the end of things like capitalism and the beginning of renewed social revolution. Bookended by songs with titles like “Nothing’s Changed” and “We Tend to Forget,” Long’s here to remind us what really matters in the long run: the politics of how we treat each other.

In almost every song here, the soundscape extends the synths to infinity, painting the picture of an endless dance floor horizon–a world beyond the queue, where the safety and oneness of communal movement is reflected in everyday human interaction. The press release states that “we shouldn’t need clubs to hide from our fears and differences in the outside world,” a theme perfectly exemplified in the securely sprawling sonic nature of tracks like “You Know?” and “No More”.

At times, the pads throughout remind me of the iconic organ vamps of classic soul music. “No More” is a quiet roller, a track that builds tension so well that when the digital clap comes in it’s a small revelation. With an album as hypnotic as this, it’s hard not to be moved by the spirit of what Long is trying to accomplish. Some of the beats in the songs have a less muted sound than the ones on the first collection of Long Trax, feeling more direct and angular. The rhythm of “We Tend to Forget” feels more urgent and driving than anything Long’s done up to this point. It calls us to action.

Aside from the enhanced directness, ‘Long Trax 2‘ offers little sonic progression from the original. If you’re not prepared for the subtlety of the album, the songs can drag on, but once the feeling is right and you lean into the mix, it’s a relaxing (yet still socially pertinent) listen that works well off of the dance floor. Long offers us a lot to think about once again, but we need a lot to think about in times like these. ‘Long Trax 2‘ is a more-than-worthy sequel to the first volume and hopefully another instalment in a series that continues for a long time to come.

Will Long released Long Trax about a year and a half ago, and now he’s released Long Trax 2, something of a sequel. But upon listening to it, the first question that popped into my head was why. It’s the most boring, pointless release I’ve heard in a good long while. While it’s not actively bad, as offensive to the ears, it’s dull. There are only six tracks, but each is about ten minutes long, and again, I’m asking myself why, because they never progress over those long play times. Song after song is a simple beat combined with very, very slow chord progressions, and the occasional annoying vocal sample preaching some nonsense or other.

This is a case where there’s no real point in breaking down a track-by-track analysis, since all the tracks do exactly the same thing over and over again, and do it for painful lengths of time. I specifically timed one song, and it would play the same chord for eleven seconds at a time before going onto the next one. In some contexts that could work, but when the only thing happening is a casio keyboard demo beat, it’s mind-numbing. I’m honestly puzzled as to why this was released. I’m not joking when I say that almost anyone with any musical talent whatsoever could create this music, but anyone with any musical sensibility would know better than to do so, as there’s just nothing here. It’s like the first attempt of a computer AI to create music: plodding, predictable, and interminable. And words like that are what keep popping into my head while listening. Other words include tedious, joyless, and stultified.

It’s honestly aggravating to listen to this set because I can’t figure out why it exists, or why I should be subjected to it. It sounds lazy and self-indulgent. If the tracks were perhaps one-quarter their current length, things would move fast enough to perhaps be interesting. And I’ve listened to plenty of ambient in my day. Slow music can be worthwhile, but in this case it isn’t. I gave this many chances, and came back to it days after my initial write-up, hoping to find something deeper. But there’s nothing there beyond the shallow surface. If you can ignore the sound bites, this might work as background music for other activities like work or whatever, but there’s so much else out there that’s more rewarding to the ear, I can’t even recommend it for that if I’m being honest.



















I provided a remix for Lindstrøm’s “Tensions” 12″ on Smalltown Supersound. You can find it here:

“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.

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.

Press text:
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

Press text:
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