It seems all too ordinary at first: an organic drone fading in and gently rising and falling over the course of several minutes. But then something changes, not in the music but in the listeners. Perhaps a period of tuning in is required; perhaps the music is simply too powerful to ignore. Eventually one succumbs to its spell. It is possible to find oneself drifting off and away from it, only to be gradually, gently, drawn back into the intimate drone.
Dying Star, recorded in 2008, is the result of an improvisation on a vintage analogue synth. The title and the cover artwork refer to the setting of the sun, although it could be the sun itself which is a slowly dying star. (Don’t worry, we still have a few million years before we need to get concerned.) The very mention of dying gives the record a further dimension, whether intentional or not, as Celer ended with the tragic early death of Danielle Baquet-Long last year. Her husband and musical partner Will Long is overseeing a lengthy release schedule of recordings by the duo, although it is doubtful all of them would have seen the light of day had Danielle not passed away; they would still be making new music together, making some of it available and stock-piling tapes not deemed ready for release. But this is not to be, and we must celebrate her life through the work rather than reflect on what might have been.
The album gradually unveils its magic; not much changes throughout the duration, even in comparison to other works in the Celer discography. The drone – a sort of luminescent, orangey hum – rises and falls across a few tones in pieces of varying length. Whether a track is three minutes or 11 does not really make any difference. One feels as if any of the pieces could stretch out to infinity, providing a protective cushion against the outside world. It is a work that could settle into the background but every so often, in different places at different times, there is a moment that reaches out and grabs the ears.
This is a breathtakingly beautiful work, and perhaps it is reading too much of the duo’s biography to describe as at times almost overwhelmingly sad. However, this is the listener’s influence on the music, in much the same way that rock fans begin re-interpreting the lyrics of a Buckley or a Morrison because of their early deaths; surely the mystery is hidden in their work somewhere? Well, sorry, but no. Celer did not make this album with any thought of the future, or of dying – they were a young couple, newly married and in love and to impose anything deeper on the album is unnecessary, because this is an album that transcends any outside influence and just is. As the album fades out to silence (the closing track is much quieter than what has preceded it), one is warmed by the fuzzy glow it leaves and grateful to those who made it.