The 70 continuous minutes of Tightrope is actually 24 separate pieces, but there are no explicit transitions to show for it. In bringing each composition together, Long decided to do more than simply thread them together in chronological sequence; rather, the pieces are interwoven and placed over one another, forming a blur of mixed intentions and tonality, tugging Tightrope this way and that, sparking gorgeous harmony and accidental rubs of dissonance. It’s a ball of warm, ethereal tone that constantly writhes and rotates – sometimes shrinking into little remnants of low frequency hum, sometimes flowering open into thick lashings of texture.
In the same way that Long has collated 24 fragments to form a singular entity, his eclectic selection of sound sources amount to a timbre that feels pure and unified. Sometimes, it feels like Tightrope could quite easily have spawned from one synthesizer – all of its tones moving with the gooey patience of hot melted wax – but placing full concentration on any one element of the audio soon unlocks its intricate, characterising traits; specific balances of frequency, speed of dynamic transition. Regardless, it’s still impressive to think that piano, television, medicine drip buzzer, eating ice, acoustic guitar and the crackle of fire in a fire place (amongst many others) are all present somewhere within the haze.
Tightrope is ultimately a blur. It derives inspiration from Long’s trip to Tokyo with Yui Onodera, and was completed upon his return back to the US. Once the listener acknowledges that the music is founded on Long’s fresh reminiscences, the album’s structure and behaviours starts to make sense somewhat; just as memories arrive as a rush of partial detail and contorted chronology, Tightrope swirls multiple sensations and experiences into an essence of a place and time. There’s a certain indistinction to the piece that can sometimes cause interest to tail off, as if Long’s recollections are too vague to solidify in anything more than murky blotches of colour or disembodied smells that can’t be placed, but it’s never long before a certain shimmer of hidden static or ghostly whistle lures the listener back in.