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DJ Sprinkles - Midtown 120 Blues
Mule Musiq CD
- Joe Muggs

In The Wire (UK), Issue 300, February 2009.


In any approach to club music that mines the past, there is inevitably a tension between the mythic and the specific - between dreams, echoes and rumours of dances that never were, and memories of real bodies on particular dancefloors. Thus Burial's mythology of ghostly pirate radio signals and imagined raves is grounded by specific references to nights and tunes heard at FWD>>. Here, Terre Thaemlitz's elegiac set of meditations on Deep House music as a global presence - Thaemlitz himself is now a resident in Kawasaki, Japan - return again and again to the New York and New Jersey clubs where he first ventured into music as DJ Sprinkles in the late 1980s and early 90s.

As spelled out in the bitterness-tinged but sharp witted voiceover to the album's title track, Thaemlitz seeks to deconstruct the "greetings card bullshit" of commercial House's pretensions to universality and euphoria, and return to the Queer and transgender agendas of the Vogue Balls where New York's Deep House was first played; accepting and discussing the problematic factors of AIDS, substance abuse and the sex industry, not claiming to be narcotic panacea for them.

This combination of pain and ambivalent nostalgia is expressed not only by vocals which mutter of violence, of Madonna's 'theft' of Vogueing, of being "deep in the bowel of House", but in Thaemlitz's piano chords. Unlike much Deep House, which merely replaces House's disco origins with a vague and soporific jazziness, Thaemlitz's playing works like Nina Simone's, opening up between jazz and modern classical a huge harmonic space in which to articulate complex emotions. Even though these linear tracks seem superficially like conventional Deep and Ambient House pieces, the combination of gently but relentlessly provocative voices and unexpected harmonic left-turns bring what is traditionally high class background music into sharp focus and demand close and sustained attention.