Available on: Mule Musiq LP
Autechreʼs 1994 Anti EP was a response to Part V of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which famously banned playing music characterised by ʻa succession of repetitive beatsʼ in public. The record came sealed with a sticker bearing the instructions, “We advise you not to play these tracks if the Criminal Justice Bill becomes law.” Now, nearly twenty years down the line, it appears that not much has changed. The ʻfukozuʼ laws in Japan that effectively prohibit dancing in clubs, though they back to 1948, have recently been reinforced, meaning many of Japanʼs clubs suffer from a 1am curfew. Enter DJ Sprinkles and his mix CD Where Dancefloors Stand Still. Terre Thaemlitz harnesses the uniquely dancefloor-uniting impact of deep house, music unashamedly engineered to make you move, to subvert laws that dictate exactly the opposite.
DJ Sprinkles is hardly averse to trying new things – this is the man behind the 30-hour micro-SD card album – but here he sticks to a solid formula: long tracks, idiosyncratic mixing rather than DJ tools, and a combination of old and new tracks, all united by the 120bpm heartbeat. Where his 2009 album Midtown 120 Blues was, as the title implies, tinged with melancholy, here the goal is sheer ecstasy – not an adventure, but an affirmation.
Take the first two tracks, from 1992 and 2012 respectively. The warm pads, chopped and faded vocal samples and funky vibe of Braxton Holmesʼ ʻ12 Inches of Pleasure (Ron’s Foreplay)ʼ eases you gently into the mix. When it segues into Alex Danilovʼs ʻDeep Sʼ via the kick drum, moving twenty years forward and from Chicago to Russia, youʼre struck not by the difference between the tracks but by the seamless way the jazzy newer one is complemented by the funky older one, its meanderings anchored by a deep sub-bass pulse and irresistible groove.
Itʼs to Sprinklesʼ credit as both selector and mixer that he can lay such contextually different tracks side by side without making the older one sound dated or the newer one less deep, and itʼs a trick he pulls repeatedly throughout the mix. For example, The Rude Awakeningʼs soulful ʻThe Dip (5 AM Dipsco Mix)ʼ from 1991 is mixed expertly into 2008ʼs minimal ʻEverybody’s Talkin’ʼ. An extended blend into Choo-Ablesʼ ʻHard To Get (BT’s Massive Groove)ʼ, whose relentless funkiness could animate the dead, takes us back to the early 90s again. The tracks are mostly excellent, but ʻEverybody’s Talkinʼ is one of the mixʼs more forgettable moments, swerving dangerously into insipid tech-house territory, and Manoo & François Aʼs ʻThe Deepʼ, is all depth and no breadth over seven minutes.
By contrast, Trentemøllerʼs deep dub version of The Rhythm Slavesʼ ʻThe Light You Will Seeʼ is fascinating. It builds slowly from bass-throb-and-popping-fingerclick combination into a textural marvel: sizzling snares, eerie echoing vocals, organic drums and swooning pads, all driven by a wickedly propulsive bassline. ʻNever More Lonelyʼ by Fingers Inc is another highlight, taking us about as deep as itʼs possible to go before its synth pads bubble into ʻCalypso of House (Paradise Version)ʼ. The final track, itʼs a cheeky piece of sparkly deep house, with woodblock drums, rich, toasty piano chords dotted with just-brushed percussion, and playful vocal samples that end the mix on a note of pure unabashed joy.
Avoiding the cliché of the ʻDJ journeyʼ, When Dancefloors Stand Still instead essentially stretches one mood (euphoria) over more than an hour to reproduce the cumulative thrill and sustained peak of a good deep house DJ set. Incorporating a cerebral, sociopolitical outlook that, letʼs be honest, is not commonly associated with the genre, Sprinkles also implies a broader statement about the importance, timelessness and universality of dance music. That it continues to come under attack from lawmakers nearly twenty years after the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 is depressing, but dance music could have a worse defender than Terre Thaemlitz, who knows only too well that holding bodies in thrall means heʼs likely to win over a few minds, too.