- Terre Thaemlitz collects all the DJ Sprinkles rarities into one essential compilation.
- Terre Thaemlitz debuted her DJ Sprinkles alias in 1998 with an EP called Sloppy 42nds: A Tribute to The 42nd Street Transsexual Clubs Destroyed By Walt Disney's Buyout Of Times Square. That record mixed queer history with sumptuous deep house music inspired by the genre's New York heyday. From that very first release, the DJ Sprinkles sound was well-established: deep sub-bass, yearning melodies, jacking yet meditative rhythms. Dedicated to the Sally's II nightclub in Manhattan, where Thaemlitz DJ'd in the early '90s, Sloppy 42nds was a tribute to an ephemeral moment in dance music history, the people and the places that Thaemlitz has eulogized throughout her career as DJ Sprinkles. Her new compilation Gayest Tits & Greyest Shits begins with the three tracks from Sloppy 42nds and runs through everything that came after—nearly every vinyl one-off or compilation track—laying out the unabridged story of one of the most important house music projects of all time.
Most people discovered DJ Sprinkles via Thaemlitz's 2009 album Midtown 120 Blues, which pondered the real history and meaning of house music with pathos, humour and a tinge of bitterness. The new compilation focuses on the all the other material, including some of the crucial DJ Sprinkles remixes of music originally released under Terre Thaemlitz's given name, such as 2012's multimedia epic Soulnessless.
Let's start there. Soulnessless was most famous for its 29-hour piano solo and striking video work, which Thaemlitz also remixed as DJ Sprinkles. "Meditation On Wage Labor And The Death Of The Album (Sprinkles' Unpaid Overtime)," released on the Soulnessless microSD card and an accompanying vinyl-only EP, is a 13-minute epic that turns that 29-hour piano solo into a deep house masterpiece. It oozes compassion, nostalgia and regret through wistful vocal sighs, a bobbing bongo groove and those deliberate piano chords. This is one of the clearest examples of Thaemlitz's ability to turn house music into a platform for deep thinking, dialogue and cathartic release at all at once. "Meditation" also features Thaemlitz's most floor-shaking basslines, which Gayest Tits & Greyest Shits is something of a showcase for. Other lengthy jams like "Admit It's Killing You (And Leave) (Sprinkles' Dead End)" pair gorgeous piano playing with the kind of bass you feel in your chest and teeth.
The sheer physicality of Thaemlitz's music might remind you of her other gig as a sound artist, as well as the urgency of her mission. "Admit It's Killing You" features a sample of the comedian Paul F. Tompkins joking about the homophobic fried chicken chain Chick-fil-A, saying, "They're very pro-traditional family—which is under attack by gay people just being around." The track comes from Deproduction, a release under the Terre Thaemlitz name that interrogates the idea of family and traditional society. In the liner notes for that release, she wrote about how LGBTQ people shouldn't get caught up or assimilated into these norms, and in fact should actively resist them. With the repeating sample of Tompkins, Thaemlitz ties in these radical thoughts and theories with her most danceable beats.
To be a Terre Thaemlitz fan is to navigate sound art and multimedia works like Deproduction and Soulnessless, to take the theory with the groove. Gayest Tits & Greyest Shits offers all the house stuff in one place, a body of work that rivals even Midtown 120 Blues. Fans who discovered Thaemlitz through that record should be thrilled to hear the project's earliest music. In addition to Sloppy 42nds, there's Bassline.89, a tribute to late '80s house that contains the rawest Sprinkles work ever recorded, from "Bassline 8.9.3"'s chunky drums and Chicago-style acid to "Glorimar's Whore House," a charmingly ramshackle tune built around Frank Ski's classic "There's Some Whores In This House" (two decades before its use on "WAP").
In collecting the wide-ranging DJ Sprinkles oeuvre as she has on Gayest Tits & Greyest Shits, Thaemlitz is also asserting control over it. The collection is CD-only, and as with her other work, will not be available on streaming platforms, not even on the Wild West of YouTube, where Thaemlitz keeps an eye on people uploading her work. She explains this approach in a page on her website, noting how even royalty payments from YouTube uploads mainly "[serve] major industries, while offering zero counter protections for minor producers wishing to limit distribution or keep works offline (in Terre's case, for the sake of cultural and contextual specificity)."
While this perspective might seem antiquated to some, it's the "cultural specificity" of Thaemlitz's work that lends it its power. DJ Sprinkles is ultimately early deep house worship from someone who was there through many of the ups and downs, who experienced the changes and ruinations and who claims to see through the bullshit and past the rose-tinted glasses. Through its mournful melodies and elegiac voices, the music on Gayest Tits & Greyest Shits is a sort of retelling of the history of house music, underlining the pain and anguish that cannot easily be separated from the good times, the situations that necessitated the supposed escapism of the dance floor in the first place. Gayest Tits & Greyest Shits carries this weight of decades of suffering, particularly for the overlooked trans community Thaemlitz herself is a part of, and presents almost 25 years of reckoning with it. As she says at the beginning of Midtown 120 Blues: "keep sight of the things you're trying to momentarily escape from."
01. Sloppy 42nds (Sprinkles' Deeperama)
02. Sloppy 42nds (Glorimar's Deeperama)
03. Sloppy 42nds (Terre's Neu Wuss Fusion)
06. Glorimar's Whore House
08. A Crippled Left Wing Soars With The Right (Steal This Record Remix)
09. Useless Movement (Radio Edit)
10. Useless Movement (Useless Dub)
01. Hush Now (Broken Record Mix)
02. Masturjakor (Masturmix)
03. Masturjakor (Dub)
04. Masturjakor (Bonus Beats Edit)
05. Meditation On Wage Labor And The Death Of The Album (Sprinkles' Unpaid Overtime)
06. Kissing Costs Extra
07. Names Have Been Changed (Sprinkles' House Arrest)
08. Admit It's Killing You (And Leave) (Sprinkles' Dead End)