Archive for December, 2012

Will Long isn’t one to rest. In addition to Celer releases that continue to appear in at-times bewildering frequency, he operates the Two Acorns label and Floor Sugar record store, and now adds the Oh, Yoko project to his CV. It’s a two-person group that pairs Long (synthesizer) with Rie Mitsutake (piano, acoustic guitar, vocals), who has issued full-length albums on Plop and Someone Good under the alias Miko. As their debut twenty-six-minute EP, Seashore, shows, theirs is a fragile and retiring electro-acoustic sound one might classify as nostalgic ambient-pop. As satisfying as their lone original is (which comes from Oh, Yoko’s forthcoming debut album), the EP’s major selling point is the participation of Terre Thaemlitz, who contributes a remix of the song under his own name and a club-oriented one as DJ Sprinkles.

The original is about as pretty a reverie as one would expect, given the personnel involved. Long’s subtle synthesizer atmospheres nicely complement the fragile musings that Mitsutake herself supports with a ruminative flow of piano and acoustic guitar shadings. There’s more going on than might be suggested by the laid-back, home-made vibe projected by the piece, with the vocal multiplied and both alternating back-and-forth from one channel to the other and literally doubling up and Long’s synth quiver rising and falling in quasi-parallel manner.

Having removed Mitsutake’s vocal altogether, Thaemlitz’s instrumental remix shifts the focus to piano meander and Long’s synth flutter before introducing a computerized voice element whose one-word pronouncements recalls both the ambient style of his own wonderful Couture Cosmetique(Caipirinha Productions, 1997) but also, obviously, Kraftwerk (“Computer-World” perhaps more than any other).

Though obviously far different in character than the other tracks, the “Sprinkles Ambient Ballroom” remix credited to DJ Sprinkles is the EP’s most vivacious cut—not that that’s a surprise, given its exuberant club style. Thaemlitz animates the original with a smorgasbord of body-moving techno and house beats, hi-hats, and synth pulsations, while also retaining enough of a connection to the original that its identity is preserved. An intimate conversation surfaces halfway through featuring the encouraging words of some therapist type addressed to someone wrestling with confusion and uncertainty (“And I hope you won’t give in to despair, that’s what I want to tell you. It’s so hard making sense of our lives…”), after which the angelic drift of Mitsutake’s wordless voice grows more dominant. With Thaemlitz on hand, the EP adds up to a promising start for Long’s latest project.

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Though Celer’s material is typically retiring in character, Without Retrospect, the Morning inhabits an even quieter space than usual. The volume level on one’s stereo setup must be turned up for the music to be clearly heard (unless, that is, one prefers having the material fill the room as subliminal sonic tinting), or perhaps one is best to treat the recording as a true headphones listen where all of its nuances can be appreciated and absorbed.

Celer is, of course, now a solo Will Long project, with his wife Danielle Baquet-Long (aka Chubby Wolf) having passed away from heart failure in 2009; her presence is felt, however, in the new release in the album’s title, which is credited to her. The recording actually dates back to 2009 when Will, toiling in a short-term capacity as a photographer and surveyor in Alberta, Canada, generated the base material using two Sony Tapecorders and recordings made with synthesizer and piano (the album, incidentally, was conceived of as the final part of a water-themed trilogy, the others being the already issued Cursory Asperses and In Escaping Lakes). Applying an endless delay system to the recorders, he assembled the album’s resultant pieces using cut-and-paste methods, and to complete the process subtly integrated field recordings gathered from the wintry setting; it’s this latter detail, of course, that makes Without Retrospect, the Morning a natural fit for the Italy-based Glacial Movements Records. Post-production eventually occurred when Long revisited the tapes two years later at his Tokyo home base and prepared the album for release.

The seven pieces are anything but violent, despite the fact that Will could hear the wind whipping against the snow-covered buildings during his Alberta stay. Instead, it’s as if the frozen land is sleeping and everything has assumed an unearthly stillness. Long might have drawn upon contact microphone recordings of ice, snow, and wind and cracking and crunching sounds during the production process, but the end result is as pure and fragile as could be imagined when crystalline tones waver softly in the air, their organ-like glisten reduced to an ethereal essence. Most of the settings hum at a low and peaceful ebb, the exception being the penultimate piece, “The Tears of Tategami Iwa,” whose whistling tones, rumblings, and grainy atmospheres assert themselves with a great deal more urgency than the other pieces. But to a large degree, the recording is quintessential Celer, a soothing, fifty-two-minute collection tailor-made to induce a state of restful calm in the receptive listener.

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This year the mothership Mystery Sea was very quiet – zero releases – but the sister division Unfathomless did well. So well, that the mothership now returns on CD, and no longer on CDR. Chubby Wolf was the name used for solo projects by Danielle Baquet-Long, one half of Celer, who passed away in 2010. The only other solo release I heard from her was ‘Meandering Pupa’ (see Vital Weekly 678), which come as a set of four business card CDRs, and which I thought was not much different than her with Celer. Here she uses field recordings, by which most likely (judging on what I heard) it is meant to be recordings of the sea, plucked cello/violin, morse code and electronics, with some ‘additional aural debris by Mathhiue Ruhlmann’, who also did the mastering. As before here too we have something that is not much different from her work with Will Long in Celer: long stretched out patterns of interwoven sound, with perhaps the clarity of the water sounds here being more present than in the work of Celer – the small amount I actually heard from them. This is one of those things were one wonders if we should look at this in terms of hearing something new or wether this is just great atmospheric music with nothing new under the sun. I think it’s save to say the first the latter. I didn’t hear anything here that I haven’t heard before, even some better at that, and Chubby Wolf is nothing new under the sun. Now, should I care about that? No, actually I don’t care. It’s winter time, it’s dark, inside it’s cosy and warm, a stack of unread books is never far away, and this is great music: what more can you wish for? Perhaps that’s the whole point of music anyway?

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Dove la morte apre ferite profonde la musica lenisce ed aiuta ad andare avanti. Quello che un tempo era un duo formato da due ragazzi giovanissimi come Will Long e Danielle Baquet-Long, marito e moglie, una passione smodata per la musica d’ambiente, la loro vita in fondo. Poi la tragedia, Danielle colta da insufficienza cardiaca, nel 2009.

Il lavoro di Will è andato avanti, perso tra flussi sonori calmi e descrittivi che ormai delineano con dovizia un profilo musicale adulto, una visione tanto rassegnata quanto rasserenata.

Questa volta è la Glacial Movements ad ospitare un suo lavoro, “Without Retrospect, The Morning”, un titolo che le note assegnano proprio a Danielle, forse un suo pensiero, o chissà…

Una musica specchio di un’anima chiusa, che lascia poche possibilità ad influenze esterne, una questione intima, personale, solitaria, come solo la solitudine può tirarti fuori certe vibrazioni.
Un album diviso in sette segmenti, ma in sostanza un unico flusso fatto di sentori flebili, variazioni tonali, umori che mai si lasciano andare a manovre eclatanti, ma che bensì tendono a preservare un’integrità progettuale e caratteriale che si ricollega poi agli esordi dei Celer. Perchè forse è bene continuare a considerarli come un duo. Come una musica che parla attraverso due diverse voci con una sola anima.

L’album è una sonorizzazione perfetta per lande sconfinate invase dalle nevi, per inverni lunghi nei quali riflettere, il suono è caratterizzato da sottili tappeti elettronici che fanno da base a field recordings notturni, onde e frequenze che si muovono con delicatezza, in un saliscendi mai soggetto a tensione ma anzi propedeutico al relax.

Se proprio possiamo notare un sussulto, questo avviene nel corso degli ultimi due brani in scaletta, dove i toni cambiano forma disegnando ancora paesaggi dai lunghi orizzonti ma questa volta fotografati alle prime luci in un’alba che regalerà una fredda mattina assolata. Non calore ma luce, una luce fredda che fa brillare i dettagli, riflettendosi sul ghiaccio e mostrando una nuova faccia che ha le sembianze della speranza.

La Glacial Movements continua ad essere in missione, seleziona e pubblica dei lavori che sposano alla perfezione un concept ormai rodato che si nutre della sua stessa materia, di un suono dal grande potere suggestivo, una musica che sa raccontare ciò che vede, non con gli occhi ma bensì con la mente e con il cuore. Una vera e propria lettura interiore tradotta in musica, ecco cosa rappresenta la Glacial Movements, ecco cosa Celer ha dato alle stampe, un disco di musica ambient personale, un ricordo, il suo ricordo.

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Take a look at Celer’s discography and you won’t see a single disruption in an ongoing flow of creative output. Never mind the unfortunate events of 2009, which till this day can’t escape my concealed lips. If anything, the frequency of releases only increased, peaking at ten albums in 2011, most of which were self-released by Will Thomas Long. In 2012, however, Long managed to transgress his ambiance across a variety of highly respected and independent labels, including Low Point,Futuresequence, Constellation Tatsu, Experimedia, and now Glacial Movements Records.

For the latter Italian label, run and operated by Alessandro Tedeschi, Celer creates a minimal soundscape, tranquil in volume and tamely sublime. The hour-long journey, titled Without Retrospect, the Morning, is incredibly fitting for the arctic aesthetic of a wintry space. The icy sculptures of moving frequencies slowly travel along frozen lands. This music is placid, muted and cold. Tones, as gentle as sine waves, flow down the elongated ice spikes and instantly freeze. Images of desolate places with resonating winds groaning through hollows cover my mind, and I reach for a hot cup of tea to inhale the warm vapor. The album is actually a third and final part of the water-themed trilogy that Celer began with Cursory Asperses (Slow Flow Rec, 2008) and Escaping Lakes(Slow Flow Rec, 2009).

Having spent a few months in South Alberta, Canada, during the winter of 2009, Long used an “endless delay system between the two open reels” to record and layer the textures. The dubbed sounds of piano and synthesizer, while fed through an old pair of speakers, slowly began to decay. This decomposition was in turn processed again, adding contact microphone field recordings of ice, snow and wind. The final output stayed dormant for two more years, until Long brought the recordings, and memories, back into life.

As I have already mentioned, Celer’s vast catalog spans months of continuous, uninterrupted listening. If you find yourself gravitating towards this type of glacial ambiance, I highly recommend you also pick up Engaged Touches (Home Normal, 2009), Capri (Humming Conch, 2009), Discourses Of The Withered (Infraction, 2008), Pockets of Wheat (Soundscaping, 2010), and Dying Star (Dragon’s Eye, 2010). And while exploring releases on Glacial Movements, I must suggest that you simply complete your collection of the entire catalog from this label – these are all truly wonderful gems!

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Quattro anni e svariate decine di album sono intercorsi tra l’originaria pubblicazione di “Discourses Of The Withered” e l’odierna riedizione, ampliata e rimasterizzata ad opera di Chihei Hatakeyama. Come ben sa chi segue Will Thomas Long, in questo periodo la sua vicenda umana e artistica è stata profondamente segnata dalla scomparsa della moglie Danielle Baquet, insieme a lui parte integrante del progetto Celer. Da allora il prolifico compositore ambient-drone americano, nel frattempo trasferitosi in Giappone, continua senza sosta a innalzare monumenti di rimpianto e melanconia, attraverso il recupero delle tante ore di musica elaborate insieme a Danielle.

La ristampa in appena cinquecento copie di “Discourses Of The Withered” riveste dunque un profondo significato simbolico, trattandosi del primo disco del duo pubblicato da un’etichetta, la stessa Infraction che oggi ne ripropone le toccanti e raffinatissime sinfonie ambientali, con l’aggiunta di una traccia tratta dalle session originali e ragguardevoli interventi su altri brani.

Il risultato è un’ora e venti di raffinatissimi soffi sintetici in fragile equilibrio, che riassume perfezione la fugacità della vita e la durevolezza del sentimento. Le abituali lunghe pièce avvincono come quelle di un’orchestra immaginaria che esegue elegie dense di commozione e d’amore, arricchendo di ulteriori significati una delle opere più emozionanti firmate Celer.

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Pod szyldem Celer kryło się w początkowym okresie działalności tegoż projektu małżeństwo – Will Long i Danielle Baquet-Long. W ciągu czterech lat jego wspólnej aktywności muzycznej powstała niezliczona ilość płyt, na których para penetrowała z powodzeniem różne oblicza eksperymentalnego ambientu. Niestety – w czerwcu 2009 roku Danielle zmarła nagle na atak serca. Will nie zaprzestał jednak tworzenia – i przeprowadziwszy się z Kanady do Japonii opublikował do dzisiaj drugie tyle wydawnictw. W samym tylko 2012 roku ukazało się aż czternaście albumów firmowanych szyldem Celer.

„Without Retrospect, The Morning” jest wśród nich wyjątkowy. Long zaczął zbierać materiał dźwiękowy, który nań trafił trzy lata temu, kiedy zimą pracował jako fotoreporter w kanadyjskiej południowej Albercie. Aura była wówczas niezwykła – często zdarzały się takie dni, że w ogóle nie widać było słońca za gęstej kurtyny opadającego śniegu, a mróz pokrywał swoimi rysunkami całe okna wynajętego domu, w którym mieszkał artysta. Long wziął ze sobą magnetofon z mikrofonem oraz kilka taśm wcześniej przygotowanych nagrań fortepianu i syntezatora. Dokonując terenowych rejestracji, miksował je na analogowym sprzęcie z przetworzonymi dźwiękami wspomnianych instrumentów. Potem wyjechał z Kanady – i dopiero dwa lata później przypomniał sobie o projekcie, dokonując jego ostatecznego miksu i masteringu w swoim nowym studiu w Tokio.

Materiał zamieszczony na „Without Retrospect, The Morning” podzielony został na na dwie części. Pierwszą tworzą krótkie utwory o impresjonistycznej urodzie, skoncentrowane na statycznych plamach przetworzonego szumu, niczym nasłuchiwane z ciepłego mieszkania dalekie smagnięcia lodowatego wiatru. To otwierający płytę „Holding Of Electronic Lifts”, a także późniejsze „A Small Rush Into Exile” czy „Variorum Of Hierophany”. Na drugi segment składają się majestatyczne kompozycje, bardziej rozbudowane, ukazujące kanadyjską zimę w pełnej krasie. Dziesięciominutowy „Dry And Disconsolate” owiewa nas chłodnym podmuchem świdrujących dźwięków, zza których wypływają oniryczne fale shoegaze`owych syntezatorów, podbite miarowo dudniącym dronem. Jeszcze bardziej minimalistyczny charakter mają „A Landscape Once Uniformly White” i „Distance And Mortality” – mrożąc słuchacza chmurnymi kaskadami monochromatycznych klawiszy. Pewne ocieplenie wprowadza dopiero „With Some Effort, The Sunset”, wnosząc w te lodowate dźwięki ledwo słyszalną melodię.

„Without Retrospect, The Morning” to arktyczny ambient w swej najbardziej radykalnej formie. Dlatego album Celera przypadnie do gustu przede wszystkim odbiorcom przyzwyczajonym do wymogów tego rodzaju estetyki. Ale takie potraktowanie muzycznej materii ma swój głęboki sens. Czyż właśnie nie w ten sposób wyobrażamy sobie podbiegunowe zimy na krańcach naszej planety?

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After waiting in production for several years, Mystery Sea has released the work ‘Seasick’ by Chubby Wolf, the solo project of Danielle Baquet-Long. I’m very glad for such a special release to happen for Chubby Wolf on such a great label.

Press release:
A mis-use of mistrust,
a clouted loop,
a taking under.
a view of islands hidden by a cloak of sea steam,
a loss,
a hidrotic tide.
Thus, I sigh at the sea, and
the sea sighed back at me.

– Danielle Baquet-Long
In a very short span of time and of creative obsession, Celer have managed to amass an astounding body of works…but this didn’t help to quench the thirst yet, and Danielle Baquet-Long, half of this symbiotic duo, under her wry moniker Chubby Wolf, sketched her own repertoire of twisted ambient patterns through spontaneous & diligent experimentation – this led to some brilliant discs, as for instance, “L’Histoire” on Gears Of Sand… Here on “Seasick” comes another of her sadly posthumous treasures, and it’s truly a pinnacle…some stirring ode to the immanence of the sea, and the ever shifting horizon strewn with ships going who-knows-where…
An imposing slow unfolding lament respectfully & subtly enhanced by Mathieu Ruhlmann’s mastering who dared to sprinkle Dani’s soundscape with aural debris giving the whole work a new aura & pertinent direction…

After all, Dani is still sailing…

In front of us,
a vertiginous sea,
submerged crevasses
frozen moments of uncertainty
that makes our hearts sink
into this solemn immensity…

And when we get closer,
It’s all ebullience,
an endless wash of disparate elements
pulled from a disintegrated cosmos…

So, we’ll leave this world,
as naked as when we entered into it,
just shot through by its piercing beauty & sly unease,
SEASICK, but somehow reconciled…

CD ltd to 250 copies
200 initial copies come with an additional art card on 300 gr satin paper

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Discourses of the Withered was originally released in 2008 and was the first proper release from Celer. In fact, the Norman Records review for the original 2008 release, notes with delight that Celer may release two albums that year. Little did we know. Here we are in 2012 and Infraction has re-issued the album as a limited CD with an expanded version of “The Separation of the Two-phased Apple Blossoms” and a previously unreleased track, “Retranslating the Upside-down Mountain”, which was from the Discourses sessions. Remastering duties are credited to Chihei Hatakeyama. What’s pleasing to see is the album is still as otherworldly and mysterious as it was in 2008.

Opening song, “This Thinking Globe Exploding”, comes at the listener in circular waves with the sounds drifting in and out of focus, almost like the soundtrack to watching an entire sleeping planet pivoting on its axis. It’s an incredibly confident first piece: barely moving, patient, yet always on edge. Something about the music is painfully human, yet also otherworldly.

Second piece “The Carved God is Gone; Waking Above The Pileus Clouds” begins with a synth swell that rises and then echoes off into infinity. It’s almost like the phrasing was designed to give us the lift of those spiked arpeggiated chords and then leaves a void so we can hear the vapour trail that comes after. It’s strikingly moving for such a minimal phrase. But, like that first composition, there is an almost airy, earthy feel to the music, as if it moves right through the listener. This pattern persists for so long that those synth chords begin to feel a vital as the air we breathe. Then other sounds enter: cold and mechanical, yet somehow driving home that essence rather than acting in conflict with it. Then the sound of human voices enters – are these protesters? The voices sound loud, resistant, defiant, as though in conflict. It’s an interesting subversion: humanity does violence to the mechanical world, not the other way around. Suddenly this calming song feels emotionally turbulent, uneasy. Immediately after, the song shifts completely. It’s an interesting spin: as if the human has interfered with the mechanical/technological world to create imbalance.

“The Stargazing Lily Lacks the Flower” evolves into something more fragile than the first two pieces. It is not built around the same feeling of waves hitting the listener, but feels like a pulse that blends highs and lows to capture the tension between the clinical and the emotional side of the text. There’s almost a sense of comfort despite these opposites in tension. Eventually the highs and lows merge to create something less tense and more naturalistic. It’s a wonderful drone that again feels vital, but somehow more human. Again, that tension between the achingly evocative and the coldly mysterious drives the album forward.

“Retranslating the Upside-down Mountain” is the piece of the puzzle that was added in for this re-issue. Interestingly, it is placed in the middle of the album. Usually those “bonus tracks” that come with a re-issue are tacked on at the end like the afterthought they actually are. But “Upside-down Mountain…” serves a purpose here – it makes that pattern of shifting closer than further from that human element more prominent. Specifically, the piece feels like a shift away from that human side to something almost alien and mechanical again. In a way, it’s a call back to the album opener – it’s that sensation of watching an entire world spin all over again. The next two compositions continue this pattern of finding the tension between the human and the otherworldly.

“Delaying the Entropy; In Emptiness, Forms Are Born” wraps things up with a slow wind down, as if the spectacle is ending. And, by now, those dichotomies of otherworldly vs. earthly and mechanical vs. human have come to some sort of balance. And how perfect is that title? You can almost see a Star Child orbiting as those final notes ring out; sure, maybe it’s not the triumph Kubrick painted it as, but it is a much needed rebirth.

And in many ways, that’s what Discourses feels like: the soundtrack to one of those existential space travel movies from the 60s or 70 s (think 2001 or Solaris). Yes, the stories were about a world of machines and otherness, but they also saw space and the technological world as a new plain for humankind to confront itself. They re-positioned the “final frontier” story lines to be about more than man conquering new landscapes, suggesting space was not some “other”, but an external manifestation of some mysterious corner inside of our humanity. But of course, all of this could be one person’s interpretation. The thing is that Celer’s music invites these types of interpretations, even today. Even if this re-issue had waited until 2020, Discourses would likely be just as vital as the day it came out.

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