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Who in the Hell is Terre Thaemlitz?
...and how do you pronounce his name?
- Timothy Appnel

In Oculus, February 1995.

Who The Hell Is Terre Thaemlitz?

October 1995

Terre Thaemlitz is an ambient artist. While many electronic artists are given this descriptor, only a few embody the true essence of the art form the way Thaemlitz does.

Thaemlitz came to New York City to study art at Cooper Union and soon became wrapped up in the New York City club scene. He began his DJing career spinning at benefits for Act Up! Soon the benefits led to appearances spinning on the drag queen ball scene of the early '90s. Thaemlitz became a regular, doing several shows a week with the late Dorian Corey and Madame Rose which earned him an Underground Grammy Award from the House of Magic for best DJ in 1991.

"I had to leave that though," says Thaemlitz from his converted classroom apartment. "I was really into underground experimental runway music. The owner of the club wanted more commercial pop house stuff. I wouldn't play it, so I left."

As a result Thaemlitz went out on his own, got his own gear and began producing the same type of tracks he loved to spin. However, his success was limited.

photo: Terre Thaemlitz          

"I really sucked at making house music, really bad. It was too rigid and minimal. So I said 'fuck it' and started fooling around more. I wasn't worried about making music for a particular scene and started letting more of the weird electronic music and the '70s jazz funk stuff I grew up with creep in. Like Kool & The Gang and Timmy Thomas. I wound up with 'Raw Through a Straw.'"

Thaemlitz had found his niche as a composer. He released "Raw Through a Straw," as a 12" on his own label Comatonse. "Raw Through a Straw" incorporated a cool funky jazz drum loop over organ riffs juxtaposed with a piano free jam. The track made him an instant success and, despite not having a distributor, sold out after charting on several prominent DJs' playlists. Terre followed up his success with Tranquilizer (Instinct), but was not content to stick with his atmospheric cool funk grooves. The release featured "Raw Through a Straw" and a couple similar tracks. Also present were tracks such as "Meditation on a Mountain Oyster" which lacks a beat or quantified musical structure.

"Basically (I was) frustrated with how the scene had evolved into this trip-hop, jungle and this that and the other thing. Instead of coming to an event where you hear various eclectic things, now it's kind of like catering to the crowd that always needs a beat so they can bob their heads. It's a different crowd from in the early '90s. Chill rooms have become main rooms that have internalized the dance floor, instead of something that could be totally free form and be what ever it wanted to be on the side of a hardcore rave room. Now ambient events are prominent in their own right, but have lost their free form structure to compensate for at."

Thaemlitz began using less and less standard electronic gear and more pure digital synthesis via his Apple Macintosh computer. Early in 1995 he released Web (Subharmonic), a collaboration with Bill Laswell-gyrating sounds saturated in unearthly mechanical winds and ear-bleeding synthetic noise.

Soil (Instinct Ambient), Thamelitz's most recent solo release, is an easier listen than Web, using minimal synthesizers, a few sublime and murky samples, with a lot of CPU cycles on his Macintosh for surreal effects. Soil is a surrealist landscape of free flowing unstructured audio beauty, full of texture and expression. Each track progresses with the smooth chaos of a dream, leaving you relaxed, but on edge at the same time. His best work to date.

Oh and by the way you pronounce his name /ter-E  TEM-lits/

Thaemlitz has just finished doing a remix for Laswell and Haruomi Hosono, the founder of Yellow Magic Orchestra. He has begun working on new tracks that incorporate more electro-acoustic (computer generated) sounds and less MIDI gear. In the future Terre hopes to develop a new way of performing publicly that will do away with DJing or performing in real-time with MIDI.