By Martin Smith | 12 March 2014
DJ Sprinkles’ new album, Queerifications and Ruins, is as sublime as it is thought provoking.
The double CD opens with two haunting mixes of June/Lost Area. This total reconstruction of Frankie Knuckles’ anthem Tears takes the song into new and deeper territories.
This is deep house music with a deep message of hurt, oppression and rejection. The political nature of DJ Sprinkles’ work is unparalleled in electronic dance music.
DJ Sprinkles is the deep house DJ persona of Terre Thaemlitz.
The music is beautiful, uplifting sad and at times brutal. It stands in its own right but knowing something about the artist does give greater depth to the music.
Terre is a musician who has performed under a myriad of names K-SHE, Miss Take, Terre’s Neu Wuss Fusion and of course DJ Sprinkles. As well as being a musician, Terre is the owner of Comatonse Recordings record label and a political activist.
Terre sometimes refers to himself as her and other times as him.
She cites that she speaks on issues of “non-essentialist transgenderism and pansexual Queer sexuality”.
Her work critically combines themes of identity politics – including gender, sexuality, class and race.
You may think this impossible, but this all comes together on the track Hardrock Striker/ Motorik Life.
Over the top of a crashing piano and echoed synth splashes, DJ Sprinkles cuts up a fragment of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, leaving only the repeated refrain “A Mountain of Despair”.
King’s opus to the belief in change and humanity is turned into a musical cry of pain against bigotry.
Then there’s the track, Ambient Ballroom, a remix of Oh, Yoko’s Seashore.
Looped over the ambient techno beat is a sample of Gil Scott Heron’s poem The Subject was Faggots from his 1970 debut album A New Black Poet – Small Talk at 125th and Lenox.
I love Heron, but this track is a homophobic, nasty and mean spirited description of a gay ball.
DJ Sprinkles rightly goes for the jugular.
Over the top of a popping synth, you can hear Heron repeating the word “balling” from the poem.
Then there is a break in the song – the listener hears two men talking. One is offering the other encouragement, as if talking him back from the brink of suicide:
“I hope you won’t give in to 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. It represents the hatred and intolerance these two men are enduring.
Then the popping synth returns and the sample of Heron repeating “balling” begins.
What could be perceived as a dance song is in fact a political polemic. It hits you even harder precisely because it is a dance track.
Much of the rest of the album is beautiful dance music.
Many of Terre’s recordings illuminate class exploitation, along with monologues about abuse in the transgender community and racism.
Raised in Missouri, Terre came up (and out) in the 1980s, a period when Hi Energy and dance music were still explicitly linked to queer culture.
Her musical life began spinning New Jersey and New York deep house in Manhattan’s transsexual clubs – and as she herself has said in several interviews, she was fired from more than once for refusing to play “diva house” fodder.
She also immersed herself in leftwing activism.
This surfaces in her work on occasions. One sublime example was her Social Material 12’. The A-side was titled Class and the B-side Consciousness.
Again on the Complete Spiral EP, DJ Sprinkles samples an Arthur Scargill speech turning it into a foot stomper.
Terre is unconcerned with mass and commercial appeal, much of her focus is on a long-gone generation of angry and depressed queer HIV/AIDS activists. This comes across strongly in her music.
Queerifications and Ruins, in fact any of her work, is worth searching out for.
Because DJ Sprinkles/Terra’s music lifts the soul, breaks your heart and refuses to accept the norm.
DJ Sprinkles: Queerifications & Ruins – Collected Remixes by DJ Sprinkles (Mule Musiq)