Terre Thaemlitz has always been defined by unusual contrasts. On the one hand he's a gender theorist with a focus on identity politics, on the other he's a deep house artist forever inspired by Manhattan's 1980s club scene. To him, there's no contradiction here: club music grew out of struggle, which makes it inherently political. "The house nation likes to pretend clubs are an oasis from suffering," he says in the intro to his 2009 album Midtown 120 Blues, "but suffering is in here, with us."
Where Dancefloors Stand Still is Thaemlitz's first mix CD, and it too has a political dimension, albeit a discrete one. Its title is a reference to Japan's fuzoku law, which has been disrupting clubs there in the last two years by making it illegal to dance after 1 AM. Thaemlitz has lived in Japan since the early '00s, so the issue is personal for him. The mix itself, however, is traditional deep house fare, free of any added commentary. It's a rare instance of Thaemlitz simply having fun, preoccupied with nothing except mixing records.
Even for those that have never seen him DJ, Where Dancefloors Stand Still may sound familiar―Thaemlitz's style behind the decks is cut from the same downy cloth as albums like Routes not Roots or Midtown 120 Blues. In fact, it's almost uncanny how well his selections fall in line with his own sound. From the first note of Braxton Holmes' "12 Inches Of Pleasure (Ron's Foreplay)"―as perfect an opener as its title suggests―the mood is pure DJ Sprinkles, at once euphoric and subdued. The rest of the mix comes in waves, darker in some parts (Sound Mechanix' "I Can't Forget") and brighter in others (Choo-Ables' "Hard To Get"), but always maintaining that smooth delivery.
Thaemlitz's mixing style plays a big role here―unusually so for a house mix. His weapons of choice are filters and echo effects, and he uses them both liberally, softening the edges of his records with the former and giving them a dreamy sheen with the latter. His transitions are noteworthy too. Sometimes he goes for elaborate blends, cutting between two tracks ("If We Try" and "The Deep") or reprising one tune well into the next ("The Dip (5 AM Dipsco Mix)" into MyMy's "Everybody's Talkin"). Sometimes he does just the opposite: a clean and simple crossfade with no fanfare (or even beatmatching). Gene Farris's "Good Feeling" simply fades out, drums and all, to make way for the next track, and somehow it sounds perfectly natural.
It feels weird to get superlative about something so understated, but Where Dancefloors Stand Still is pretty much flawless. Like Levon Vincent's fabric 63, it burrows deep into an exceptional artist's signature sound, and introduces the listener to some fantastic records in the process. More simply, it's 14 special tracks strung together with finesse, which is really all you can ask for from this format. Top it all off with beautiful cover art―a painting from Emi Winter―and a vinyl sampler with some of the mix's best (and hardest to find) selections, and you've got something approaching perfection.