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.

In 1984 Will Long’s great uncle, then 80 years old, went to Tunis from his home in New York, stayed one night in the Hotel Amilcar, from where he sent a blank postcard back to his family in Mississippi. The next day he travelled to Hammamet, rented a hotel room, brought swimming trunks, and by the afternoon drowned in the ocean. That’s what Will Long tells us in the information of his new release as Celer. In 2015 Long undertook the same travel, in the same time frame and made the recordings, which he used for the music on this CD. There are quite some field recordings to be noted in this, but also the trademark long sustaining sounds by Celer. iTunes opens up and calls this new age; and yes, sometimes I think Celer plays a bit of new age doodles, especially in a piece like ‘In All Deracinated Things’, which is the most ‘Celer’ like piece here. Yet I wouldn’t call this new age in the way it is presented now. The bits with just field recordings are way too strange for that; these are very silent pieces and have the faintest trace of sound. A piece like ‘Base Haze’ is simply a far away drone and far from the more musical touch we know. In that sense this album is more like a story, a radio drama (without words that is) mixed with the usual ominous drone/ambience of Celer. That makes this yet again an album by Celer that is slightly different from the many that he does – and looking at his bandcamp there is a lot of Celer available (and many that I didn’t hear). I am never sure what is the deciding factor when it comes to releasing music on a physical format or keep it as a download only, but somehow it seems that Will Long knows perfectly what is a bit different and that those should be available on CD or LP. If you are more of casual fan, then I’d say this particular one is one to get, mixing the classic Celer sound with some refined field recordings, wilfully obscure sounds and all of that into a great story/journey. However sad the origins of these are.

In 1984, Celer’s 80-year-old uncle took a trip to Tunisia, tragically drowning while swimming in the ocean on only the second day of having been there. An awful incident yes, but Celer wanted to retrace his uncles footsteps by visiting the same places he did back then and chronicle the activity through ambient.

And ambient it is, the usual Celer clouds drifting aimlessly by, this time with some definite sun-scorched-ness to them. I’m getting orange and yellow from this. It could easily be mournful or accepting of his uncle’s fate both at once, the chords toeing the line quite nicely between the two. Snatches of a French man speaking can be heard buried under various points, which sort of makes sense as Tunisia is a land once stolen by the French.

It’s nice to hear Celer do music for places worldwide, and I think carrying on this route would promise some interesting twists and turns in his musical journey.

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

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.

Never heard of Mogador? You might be right, as ‘Overflow Pool’ is the first outing of Mogador, and it’s a new project from Celer’s/Oh Yoko’s man Will Long, who is getting more and more active it seems. With Oh Yoko he plays some folktronic music and working as Celer he is probably best known, applying tons of processes to sounds to create a drone like based soundscapes and having released a large amount of works. As Mogador he also plays ambient but arrives at totally different results. The cover lists a Rhodes piano, Uher microphones and a Sony tape recorder, the latter to produce reel-to-reel tape delay and nothing else. The electric piano is played in a room, picked up by microphone and fed through this tape-delay. If you think ‘piano + delay = Harold Budd and Brian Eno’ then you’re not far off the mark. It’s what I thought, even without reading the press release. It comes perhaps without the added technology of Eno, as there is no reverb used, no colouring of sound, but then the tape delay system is of course entirely Eno-esque. Mogador plays it is in the upper region of the piano and let’s notes die beyond their sustain, and there is some fine crackle to be noted in between the notes, like some residue of magnetic tape flinging off the machine. Two sidelong pieces of this (plus a bonus in the download) of slow music, in which not a lot happens, but there is also not really a sense of endless and tedious repetition. Mogador spreads out his playing a lot, and leaves lots of room for the music to breath and fill up your space very nicely. It sounds very much ‘live’ and I suppose that is the whole idea of this music. You can play this soft and let it work your environment in a refined way and have it as a presence, or, as I did, a bit louder and enjoy everything that is happening the notes, as it never gets quiet with all sorts of fine crackles and tones. This is not like Celer at all, but you could see very well this having similar roots as the music he produces as Celer, but then at the opposite end of the same ambient coin. This is an excellent start for a new project. I am sure we’ll hear more of this.


Press text:
45 Minute doublepack featuring some of the most engrossing House music you’ll likely hear this year or any other – First in a series of three releases pairing original material by Will Long with DJ Sprinkles’ overdubs. 

Tokyo, Japan-based American artists, Will Long and DJ Sprinkles, present sublime, durational deep house studies examining the dancefloor in light of contemporary socio-political inequalities and failed illusions of ‘Revolution’ and ‘Progression’.

It begins a series of three vinyl sets and eventually a 2CD package that effectively compare deep house’s original, economical aesthetics and function as the soundtrack to marginalised society, with its current position; repackaging and overproducing the same old ideas with empty sloganeering, operating as the catalyst of social trends, rather than an agent of social transformation.

They both make their point subtly but clearly. Two sides feature extended 10+ minute tracks by Will Long, created using relatively minimal means of rhythm composer percussion, polyphonic synth chords, and rack sampler vocals, while the other two sides provide overdub Sprinkles versions.

The beautifully absorbing results – which sound miles away from Long’s gentler ambient and experimental work – prove that it is possible to elicit subtle yet optimal responses with a well-selected palette of grooves and samples, in this case from Jesse Jackson and Rap Brown, rather than current vogue for showmanship and more-as-more arrangements.

DJ Sprinkles’ overdubbed contributions quite literally and psycho-acoustically resonate that intention, tactfully rending a farther, lush physicality and soulfulness thru deftly applied daubs of glutinous subbass pressure, airy strings and subtly shimmering FX, really offsetting Long’s trax in a whole other dimension; and via disciplined, stripped-down, full-bodied production values that rank as perhaps the deepest yet in Sprinkles’ already perfectly formed canon.

They could be taken as a call for humbleness and meditative efficiency over cliched buildups and preening vanities, perhaps a comment on “deep” house as the equivalent of a fresh tattoo or sweatshop t-shirt slogan.

Because, you know, it really does stand for a lot more.

Available directly from Boomkat

Out on Comatonse Recordings on September 26 (2CD pre-orders ship September 14) is my debut album under my own name, Will Long, ‘Long Trax’.

Press text:
We live in an era when ‘change’ is a soundbite to sell more of the same old ideas, and ‘revolution’ has more to do with social trends than social transformation. Will Long’s deep house debut on Comatonse Recordings examines that pack of lies dubbed ‘change’ from the sweaty dancefloor, sounding the aftermath of failure around attempts at equality in ‘progressive’ societies. Made with a simple setup of rhythm composer percussion, polyphonic synth chords, and rack sampler vocals, these tracks have a minimal rawness that contends we’ve been wrong the whole time about how far the US – and the world – has come. Although these tracks are sonically unlike anything Long has produced as Celer or his other aliases for minimal and ambient experiemental audio, they share a stripped-yet-full sound that reacts against overproduction – within the dance music industry, and societies at large.

Each track is accompanied by an overdub from DJ Sprinkles, and the packaging features illustrations by Tsuji Aiko. The project will initially be released as a series of three multi-disc vinyl sets (two x2 EP sets and one x3 EP set, seven discs in all), followed by a double CD release with poster.

2CD available for pre-order from Comatonse Recordings