By now, most readers are familiar with the story of Celer. Celer was the duo of Dani Baquet-Long and Will Long, but after Dani’s untimely death, Will continued to soldier on, enriching her musical legacy by releasing a seemingly inexhaustible sequence of discs featuring their entwined work. If a name can predict the outcome of one’s life, then Will must certainly feel fated, but the interpretation of his nomenclature is yet to be determined. Is the artist one of will, or one who will long? Hell Detoured provides a tentative answer. It’s not as dark a recording as one might have imagined, given its title; its gentle tape loops rise in and out like breath. Perhaps the detour around hell – in this instance, a personal, inner hell – leaves Despair dissatisfied: the very nature of art as healing. Many of Celer’s projects have been over-ambitious, attempting to say too much by painting on too grand a canvas. Due to its focused nature, this release says much more than its brief running time might suggest. As a result, it’s one of the finest recordings in the extensive Celer catalog.
Archive for January, 2011
Will and Dani’s 32nd full-length album suffers from many of the same flaws found on their second record. Broken up into 29 distinct songs, Capri sees Celer attempting to alleviate the monotony of their mostly monochromatic music by introducing intermittent asides. Unfortunately, many of the songs represent only a nominal change, and the record frequently sinks under the weight of its own routine.
Maybe I’m doing it wrong. Maybe I should be listening to Celer the same way I sometimes listen to SleepResearch_Facility or La Monte Young, by not giving it my full attention. The two albums I have heard suggest Celer’s music belongs in the background anyway. It is typically repetitive, simple, and diffuse, aspiring toward environmental noise more than a recorded object of focus, but unlike the music of Kevin Doherty and The Theatre of Eternal Music, it is both timid and tepid. Probably because they were hesitant to commit to any one approach, Will and Dani’s music sounds muddled and indecisive. In this case, it’s as if two different records were forced together on one CD-R, each with its own theme and goals. That lack of focus is the primary reason their music fails to impress me, and their superficiality is a close second. Numerous editing issues and a nearly colorless instrumental palette only bog the record down more.
Unlike Ariill, however, some major surgery could save this record. Sandwiched between the longer drones that compose most ofCapri are a number of brief vignettes. Some are pleasant, but more than a few sound alike, while others sound completely out of place or altogether unnecessary. Getting rid of those tracks would relieve Capri of a lot of dead weight, give it more punch, and cure a good deal of the monotony that plagues it. Cutting some of the longer drones out of the record would help, too. Nearly all of them exhibit the same colors, textures, and moods, and not one of them succeeds in sounding like anything more than a washed out blur of sound. Toss a few of those out and Capri feels even lighter and more focused. Beneath all the fat is a coherent record of weightless drones, even if most of them are one-dimensional.
Since field recordings play a central role in their compositional method, I would expect more dynamism and variety from their music. But, nearly every drone and sustained note on Capri is flat and shallow, which is a shame because Celer sound great when they allow texture and variation into their sound, as both “Braclets Passed to Spanish Hands” and “Sonata For Dual, Unaccompanied Piano” attest. A little more discipline would help Celer tremedously.
This review will be necessarily personal. If my past review of their albums Cursory Asperses and In Escaping Lakes is any indication, I am quite taken by the diverse ambient oeuvre of Celer. Heck, I even dedicated my debut album as an ambient recording artist to them. I thought I had worked out a pretty clever game plan with my album, combining totally unprocessed, “anecdotal” field recordings of real environments, with pensive, atmospheric drones and instrumental textures. I thought I was giving just the right amount of a nod to Celer’s legacy (the drones), while bringing my own element to the game (the field recordings). Turns out, I’m not at all the first person to think of combining these two basic elements; in fact, while I was toiling on my album, Celer and Yui Onodera had already done it, and done it extremely well. I couldn’t have known that, as Generic City, the first Celer album to use anecdotal field recordings in any overt way, would not be released for some five months after my album. It is quite a revelation hearing them work in this format; I am humbled at the pristine quality of their recordings, how finely the episodes of sound transition, and as always, how lovely and full of life the drones are. Several years of work went into the creation of this album, and you can hear it. For all of this praise, there is a “but” I have to mention at this point – Celer were at their best working alone and with abstract sonic material. As engaging as Generic City is for the most part, there are times when the musical arrangements and field recordings seem to be incongruous, one’s presence distracting from the mood or character of the other. When this happens, the listener is stirred out of the otherwise perfect sense of place the music establishes, suddenly remembering that these sounds are not natural but have a hidden contrived organization. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen too many times, and the album’s more effective parts paint shockingly vivid urban scenes that instill complex emotions. Quite possibly the least characteristic album Celer ever had a hand in, and therefore one of their most intriguing, Generic City resides among the stronger of the band’s many releases from 2010.
Yui Onodera is het soort artiest die het liefst van al met field recordings te werk gaat, en hij drijft dit tamelijk ver want zowat alles wat deze mens te horen krijgt wordt voor het nageslacht bewaard maar vooral om te dienen voor zijn eigen experimentele projecten.
Die opnames kunnen gewoon natuurgeluiden zijn zoals een zwerm vogels die overvliegen maar ook de geciviliseerde wereld is een dankbare geluidsbron voor diens experimenten.
Zo gebeurt het dat hij soms gewoon op de uitkijk staat ergens in Los Angeles om geluiden uit de metro op te nemen of gewoonweg mensen die wat met elkaar te staan kletsen, of zelfs de regen die op het voetpad kletst is genoeg voor Yui om het te gaan gebruiken.
Het kan zelfs gebeuren dat deze lieve mens gewoon een vliegtuig opstapt om ergens in Azië biddende stemmen in één of andere tempel te gaan opnemen.
Eens thuis begint hij als een klein kind de opnames voor zich uit te spreiden en begint hij een selectie te maken van wat hij nu gaat gebruiken of niet. Rond deze selectie wordt een minimalistisch klanktapijtje geweven die meestal bestaat uit wat atmosferische drones, ook al is er plaats voor wat viool en een piano.
Deze cd mag er dan wel eentje van het experimentele soort zijn , toch merk je dat eigenlijk niet want deze “Generic City” is één groot auditief avontuur waarbij je gaat neerzitten en af gaat vragen wat het volgende geluid zal zijn dat je gehoor binnendringt.
Misschien is dit het soort muziek dat bepaalde mensen de wenkbrauwen doet fronzen maar hier is tenminste over nagedacht, en dat kunnen we nu niet bepaald van alles zeggen!
‘Pathways in the Inverted Forest’ is a 20-minute piece for synth and field recordings,
created in Tokyo, in January 2011. It is a free download from the netlabel Absence of Wax.
Il nuovo album dei Celer arriva da una neonata etichetta, la Two Acorns, curata dalla metà del duo Will Long – e la cosa non ci stupisce data la prolificità della coppia. In più, a inaugurare il catalogo troviamo un album nato dalla collaborazione con Yui Onodera, che ha contribuito massicciamente alla cattura dei field recorder qui presenti. L’intento di Generic City riguarda l’unione dei frammenti sonori raccolti dai tre nelle rispettive location, Los Angeles e il Giappone, al fine di creare uno streaming di natura e suoni urbani, di spazi e luoghi che inglobano casualmente un passato, uno dei tanti (i canti al Buddha), e lo restituiscono in una quotidianità globale, a volte austera, spesso fascinosa.
In Generic City, il classico dronato Celer-iano incontra vari momenti concreti, come i passi nella metropolitana, le conversazioni di adulti e bambini e una serie di mezzi (automobili, tir, aerei, bicilclette). Filo conduttore è il flusso di coscienza, con una piccola novità, ossia l’idea di imaginary tale onoderiana. In pratica, un progetto ampiamente riuscito: costruire una città generica – o meglio, sui generis -, non solo un’impersonale toponomastica sonora, ma un favola sopra un ambiente familiare ma altro. L’ottimo Taylor Deupree al mastering completa un lavoro consigliato non solo ai soliti frequentatori dell’elettroacustica ma anche a chi vuol scivolare dall’ambient e dal post à la Dean Roberts a queste lande senza farsi male.
Celer add to their voluminous catalogue with this two track (18 minutes each) release on Blackest Rainbow… If you’ve previously heard Celer, you probably know what to expect; gentle washes of sound immersed in ever-expanding reverb, subtle shape-shifting phrases, and field recordings weaving themselves through and between tracks. It’s an approach that is instantly and unmistakeably identifiable as this pair’s work. So, while there are no surprise forays into death metal or jazz-flecked jungle here, what we have is a beautiful release that ticks all the right boxes. Delicate, almost subconscious melody? Check. Deep, drifting ambience? Check. Gently transforming structures? Check. The two tracks are evocative and glacially mesmerising – yet with such a strong and immense catalogue already released, one can’t help but feel a little like it’s been done before. It’s almost Celer-by-numbers. New listeners will be bewitched and enthralled by these two tracks – they have an undeniable sensuous majesty that would be intoxicating to fresh ears. Even seasoned Celer fans will, no doubt, fall instantly in love with this release – it IS stunning – but I can’t help but wonder how long these (presumably) archival recordings can continue to be released at their current pace and not threaten to ‘cheapen’ the Celer experience. I have a lot of love for Celer – in fact, I think this release is a particularly strong showing; richly melodious and impressive – however, too much of a good thing….
Celer is not the amazing ambient and drone unit that every blog, webzine, and message board in the universe claims it is. At least, Ariill doesn’t prove it. Released as a pair of free MP3s in 2007 by Archaic Horizon and presumably related to a self-released CD-R of the same name from 2005, these two half-hour drones represent the start of Celer’s prolific four-year run, which I assume yielded better music than this.
Following Anthony D’Amico’s review of Vestiges of an Inherent Melancholy, I sought out whatever information I could about Celer. All the blogs and message boards I found trading their music made it sound as though Will Long and Dani Baquet-Long’s recorded output was a heavenly ambient gospel inspired by the same gods that Jacob Kirkegaard, Chris Watson, and Rosy Parlane proclaimed. Such comparisons and high praise sent me looking for anything I could find by them. Thanks to Archaic Horizon, I didn’t have to look far, because they provide Ariill absolutely free of charge on their website.
A paragraph or two can be found there that tries to describe Ariill’s central conceit, but it’s poorly written and more confusing than helpful. The grandiloquent description only explains that these two pieces began life as piano sonatas and were transformed into something new using a relatively simple looping process the band refers to as “triangular synthesis.” There’s a diagram included with the download that is supposed to make that process easier to understand, but it’s entirely unnecessary and only makes Celer look pompous. Whatever they did to transform their piano music into respiring drone noise, the effort just wasn’t worth it.
During the first half-hour, distorted tones, which are stretched to the breaking point, crackle and stutter amidst steaming vents and a rippling, nearly melodic background. The effect is a pleasant one, at least initially, but after 15 minutes it becomes tedious. There is no development, nor is there much in the way of depth, and after just a couple of minutes the song is essentially spent. But Celer keeps the same thing going for an additional 28 minutes. Only very minuscule elements are added or subtracted, so that by the end all I can hear is a repetitive, grating noise, like Charlie Brown’s mom speaking through a broken megaphone. It isn’t meditative and it isn’t poetic, it’s just a long, plodding exercise in generic feedback manipulation.
The second half-hour manages to be worse. A single undulating tone begins the song, and over the course of 32 minutes it is transformed by various effects and the addition of other tones, which interfere with it. As these echoing sine waves lap over one another, distorted chunks of audio similar to those from the first song pan across the stereo in short fits. Again, the effect is pleasant enough at the start, but prolonged exposure generates only frustration. Making matters worse are a number of abrupt frequency changes, where the song’s central tone is either lowered or raised in a distracting and unpleasant way. Without them the song would be better, but it would still go on for far too long.
With some editing, Ariill might have been a fine EP of under-produced drone, but as a full-length release it is severely flawed. Even in abbreviated form, it would lack the color and ingenuity found so abundantly in the music of people like Andrew Chalk or Jonathan Coleclough (check out Jonathan’s Period for an excellent example of highly processed, piano-derived music). It isn’t hard to imagine that Will and Dani released better music during their short time together; this is only their second release, after all. But, for now, I have to conclude that if Celer is as great as everyone says they are, the proof is somewhere else, on one of their other 57 releases.
I was very sad to hear the news of the untimely death of Trish Keenan, the vocalist for the dreamy, adventurous group Broadcast.
The world will miss your beautiful contributions through music, but there’s much to remember you by, and those things won’t be forgotten.