House or what many club goers now perceive as deep house has been on a long slow revival and has finally broken into the mainstream. Disclosure are getting Mercury Prize nominations for their simple but effective marriage of garage and house and Alunageorge are taking it one step further and using it to form fun but sickly pop tunes. This was bound to happen and it is needed, mainstream club and pop music has been bogged down by bad production for far too long. The only problem is that this new found love for ‘deep house’ is overshadowing what the genre really is and what it really stands for.
DJ Sprinkles or Terre Thaemlitz by his real name has been troubled by this revival for a long time now. The owner of Comatonse Recordings and ‘queer philosopher’ is known to be very outspoken. Often focusing on identity politics and commenting on gender, class and race he uses his music as a form to not only listen to but to also make a statement. His release of Midtown 120 Blues in 2009 not only enlightens us but laments the change in commercial media whilst also delivering one of the most beautiful and intelligent electronic albums ever made.
Midtown 120 Intro
‘House isn’t so much a sound as a situation.’ Terre Thaemlitz once said that his DJ Sprinkles moniker was a signifier of unheard DJs and un-played records. A name for the disenfranchised people that he believes house music really stands for. ‘What is house?’ he asks; not an escape from suffering, that suffering is inside of us. This introduction lays the foundation for the following 80 minutes of pure deep house that mainly eschews vocals apart from a number of monologues and loops. This is sad music but it feels uplifting. There is hope contained here hidden between 120 beats per minute.
This music is warm and layered, it feels soft and slow but many of the tracks would be very welcome on a dance floor. Midtown 120 Blues is dark and repetitive with an echoing vocal sigh that loops around the beats keeping you pulled in. This isn’t music you dance to with people, this is a solo experience. Close your eyes for eight minutes and get lost.
Midtown 120 Blues
Perhaps the most effective and best track on the album is the most relaxed and melancholic. The ambient Grand Central, Pt. II (72 hrs. by Rail from Missouri) is all about contemplation. Record fuzz, light piano keys and the sound of distant crickets draw you in slowly while hazy voices keep you gripped. It reminds me of the slow contemplative pieces in Blade Runner, noir and sad but for some reason very important. This is a necessary piece of art that requires you to listen and think about what has been and what is still to come. This piece was most likely inspired by his moving to New York in 1986, “It was $50 cheaper for me to take a three-day train ride than to take a plane that would take four hours or whatever,” he says in an interview to XLR8R. “So my parents sprung to put me on this train and I didn’t even have suitcases—I had footlockers. And you also have to imagine me in this weird, faggy, New Romantic clothing, with these trunks, getting out in New York City and just pissing my pants. I was just scared shitless.” It is about the fear and excitement of making a big step in your life, about change and the unknown.
Grand Central, Pt. II (72 hrs. by Rail from Missouri)
The last track The Occasional Feel-Good is the album at its happiest, a funky piece of deep house magic. A positive end to an album that questions whether we are going in the right direction, if we have made the right choices. Everyone fears change, from music, to city, to gender this album explores that feeling while still firmly representing the foundations of the genre that will now be referred to as ‘classic house’. This is an essential listen not just for house and electronic fans but for anyone who appreciates art and music that makes a statement. In a perfect world this would be hailed as a masterpiece, in this world DJ Sprinkles will remain unheard being played by unknown DJs in unknown clubs.
The Occasional Feel-Good
You can listen to the whole album on youtube now, it will be the best choice you make all day.