- Queerifications & Ruins, Mule's new collection of remixes by Terre Thaemlitz, AKA DJ Sprinkles, begins with two remixes only Thaemlitz could make. Both reinterpret June's 2011 track "Lost Area"—one is a three-minute ambient version, the other a 13-minute epic—and both cover a far broader range of emotions than you'd normally find in house music. This is true of their vocal samples alone: one female voice croons "so many tears," while another, seemingly in the midst of a breakdown, growls "all the way to the bottom, you make me"—and then screams. In the "Lost Vocal" version, pads in the back go from sinister to soothing, and eventually the whole thing swells to a climax with a slow, reverb-drenched piano solo. A meaty bassline and some bouncy percussion keep the whole thing club-friendly throughout.
This is what makes Thaemlitz's house records so good: they touch on moods and topics typically out of bounds in club music. It goes without saying that house was born from struggle, but no one remind us of this as often as Thaemlitz does. "The house nation likes to pretend clubs are an oasis from suffering," she says on Midtown 120 Blues. "But suffering is in here, with us." It's a point that would have been clear even without this explanation. From her use of minor keys to her choice of vocal samples, which reference everything from AIDS to trans-on-trans violence, suffering, especially of sexually marginalized groups, is often front and center in her music. But not always. She has party tracks, too—she is a DJ, after all—and her ability to move between these two modes is part of what makes her music so rich.
This has never been more true than on Queerifications & Ruins, a double-disc package that brings together every DJ Sprinkles remix from the past three years (save her latest on Perlon, the excellent "Crossfaderama" version of The Mole's "Lockdown Party"). Take the "Sprinkles' Dubbarama" remix of Hard Ton's "Food Of Love," an 11-minute deep house bomb that grows more and more reflective as it goes, until it dissolves into a beatless, three-minute piano outro. "Exhalation," a DJ Sprinkles remix of Parallax Beat Brothers, begins as a bubbling ambient piece, then slowly congeals into a gently bumping after-hours tune. On her remix of Hardrock Striker's "Motorik Life," Thaemlitz samples Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech—something that would sound clichéd in anyone else's hands, but here feels dark and fresh, with the original text chopped up to make a new refrain: "despair... despair... the mighty mountain of despair..."
If there's a track that shows Thaemlitz at full-tilt, it's the "Ambient Ballroom" remix of Oh, Yoko's "Seashore." The original's Grouper-esque cooing is paired with an ambient techno beat and a sample of Gil Scott Heron repeating the word "balling" (from his song "The Subject Was Faggots"). In the breakdown, we hear an intimate conversation between two men. One is offering the other encouragement, as if talking him back from the ledge:
"I hope you won't give into despair, that's what I want to tell you. It's so hard making sense of our lives. I guess I mean to say, making our lives sensible, in a strange city, where we begin a different lifestyle, completely. Maybe not exactly sure inside, if the changes we're choosing are right, necessarily, even if they're right for us. It's so easy to become confused, and so hard to love ourselves, and find what's good for our lives...."
Meanwhile, Scott-Heron's monologue about "faggot balls" carries on in the background, as if to represent the climate of intolerance these two characters endure. Thaemlitz is a multimedia artist as well as a producer, and we rarely see these talents complement each other as well as they do here.
As she recently told Crack, Thaemlitz sees Queerifications as a "DJ tool." "I mean, they are all totally unrelated remixes, so this compilation is not like an album with a clear narrative or something like that." That certainly sells it short. Toshiya Kawaski, who runs Mule Musiq, arranged these 14 tracks into a very smooth and gradual arc. The result is an immersive two-and-a-half hours of lush, understated and emotionally complex deep house.
01. June - Lost Area (DJ Sprinkles' Empty Dancefloor original version)
02. June - Lost Area (DJ Sprinkles' Lost Dancefloor original version)
03. Hard Ton - Food Of Love (Sprinkles' Dubberama)
04. Marco Bernardi - Klinsfrar Melode (Sprinkles' Deeperama)
05. Hardrock Striker - Motorik Life (DJ Sprinkles' Mountain Of Despair)
06. Corbie - Arktika (Sprinkles' Deeperama)
07. Oh, Yoko - Seashore (Sprinkles' Ambient Ballroom)
01. Parallax Beat Brothers - Exhalation (DJ Sprinkles' Deep Breath mix)
02. Matt Tolfrey - Encarta (Sprinkles' Micro Soft dub)
03. Kuniyuki - Between Shadow And Lights (Sprinkles' Lights Out dub)
04. Ducktails - Letter Of Intent (Sprinkles' Post Script)
05. Adultnapper - Low Point On High Ground (Rock Bottom mix)
06. Area - Bourbon Skies (St. Petersburg Three-Four Blues)
07. Jorge C. - A Little Beat (The World Is Ova megamix)