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Will Long, "Long Trax 2"

cover image Unsurprisingly, Long Trax 2 sounds like a direct continuation of the first album Will Long (Celer) issued in 2016. Self-described as a "house" album, Long’s interpretation of the classic genre takes some liberties with expectations as far as the style goes.  Sure, the rhythms are there and the primary focus, but Long filters the standard facets of the style through his minimalist approach to sound he established in the ambient space of Celer, resulting in a meditative album that is far more calm than club friendly.

Smalltown Supersound

House music was of course created with the dance club in mind, but Will Long's interpretation of it does not lend itself very well to that context.His arrangements are too hushed and quiet, and the drum machine is mixed a bit too soft to fill out a dance floor via pounding bass.Given his work as Celer though, I assume introspective listening is more the mood Long is going for with this project.He also acknowledges the political side of the genre, which is less focused on by those modern day practitioners of the genre, via political speech samples mixed in throughout this collection.

Like the original Long Trax he presents six songs, all of which sit near the ten-minute mark (this compilation was again also presented as a series of three 12" singles).The same building blocks are in play here as well:sparse, restrained synthesizer washes and notably understated production, all propelled by the stiff metronomic Roland digital drum machine.There is a similar sense of almost hypnotic repetition, where the pieces are varied slightly, but never dramatically shift in tempo or dynamics.

Long lays out the blueprint right from the start on "Nothing's Changed":elongated keyboard pads are stretched around the rigid beats, peppered with samples of early Barack Obama speeches throughout.Slowly he adds additional elements to the rhythm, switching the bass drum pattern up and throwing in hand claps at the end.Structurally "You Know?" is similar with its synth swells and slow rhythmic development.Here though he mixes things up, sticking to the drumstick and shaker preset sounds on the machine, with the final product having a nicely sleepy, somnambulist drift to it.

"We Tend to Forget" features a more traditional house sounding organ sound, but processed and distilled to its most basic features, although here he is emphasizing the kick drum led rhythms more than anything else.The beat is modified as the song goes on, but for the most part he treats the synths as a subtle accent more than a melodic centerpiece.For "The Struggles, The Difficulties" he uses a similar tactic, keeping the synthesizer low and instead emphasizing the insistent beat.The samples are sparse and the rhythm is mixed up as it goes on, but again there are not drastic changes.

Long Trax was a polarizing release, one that many felt was too understated for what Will Long was attempting to do via a new style of music, and its follow-up is no different.I found it engaging, however, but being a Celer fan beforehand, I listened to these songs as an ancillary project to his work there, and in that context it is an excellent fit.They may not be club bangers, but they are gentle and spacious ambient works that nicely lulled me in, sometimes drifting off to the background but never becoming forgettable or easily ignored.It is an idiosyncratic approach to beat-driven electronic music, but an excellent one.