Archive for April, 2013

I’m not sure where to begin with this, but it’s likely best that I write as little about it as possible.  Some of what I write is speculation or perhaps flawed interpretation, but it doesn’t really matter since music listening and appreciation is often subjective.

Will Long’s (Celer’s) new album Viewpoint is simply gorgeous.

I have listened to Viewpoint while walking, reading, on the edge of sleep, awakening in rays of sunshine and listening as I am now on (what I consider to be) proper audio equipment, with sound filling my listening room.  There’s a commentary within the CD cover, and it’s a narrative of (as I see it) the beginnings of a love story, moments in time and place, captured and held in the collective memory of the two who shared it–the connections in words and sound.  It took me a few attempts to remain focused for the entirety of the album, but after re-reading the story and dreaming along with the music I was hooked, deeply.  There are moments when Viewpoint weaves and peregrinates throughout its twenty-six nearly invisible sections, and at times there are some darker moments (life’s unexpected times) and pleasant daydreams, but eventually it all becomes clear and things interlock and harmony prevails, as tightly as the paving stones that decorate the inner sleeve of the bi-folding CD jacket.

Hold fast to the memories, don’t let them go…


Vain Shapes and Intricate Parapets, or HOT-2 (2,5-dimethoxy-4-ethylthio-N-hydroxyphenethylamine), finds Chemical Rob matchmaking Celer and Hakobune, two of the most prolific and precious audio-spatial fragrance purveyors renowned for the emotional resonance of their drone and space musicking, for a marriage made in ambient heaven. Will Long and Takahiro Yorifuji are conjoined on a 2-track tape designated ‘for deep thought, reflection and longing.’ As drones go, and these are some of the most studiedly gone, Hakobune’s “Merges Of Hysterical Exhilaration” is all weightless low-mid range silken and gentle consonance with slight variations in harmonic turn and texture throughout. Celer’s “Complete Possession Of Full Temerity” reveals more timbral diversity, going from restraint to a fibrillant rapture of metals, while sustaining a serene mien. From measured low to high-mid frequencies, it gets (us) high later on, even flirting with an unwonted asperity of near-feedback resonances, increasingly engulfing, tonal shifts subtle yet effective, dissolving towards fade-out in light and luminous vapours. The two side-long pieces elide seamlessly, inbetweens dissolving, celestial-inclined dreamscenes of melodic abstraction solicitously sculpted a less weary world away from the software (worn) solutions of all too many New Now Voyagers of Ambient.


Nell’incessante processo di sublimazione del ricordo in forma di musica ambient da parte di Will Thomas Long, “Viewpoint” occupa un posto del tutto peculiare. Non solo per la suadente emozionalità dei settantotto minuti di modulazioni finissime e filtraggi di armonie cameristiche mai cosi delineate, ma anche per le suggestioni raccolte in una giornata campestre, fedelmente rappresentate dalla copertina e tradotte in un correnti sonore tempestate da soffi di brezza e gorgoglii di ruscelli.

L’occhio sensibile del prolifico artista americano residente in Giappone ha dunque osservato la semplice naturalezza di paesaggi incontaminati con sguardo niente affatto banale, fino a ricavarne un’emozionante sinfonia ambientale.


Gli ultimi anni sono stati decisamente pieni di impegni per Will Thomas Long, uno dei più importanti esponenti del ramo più vicino ai canoni “classici” della moderna ambient-drone. Dopo la serie di 7” al fianco di Machinefabriek e il progetto Oh, Yoko – che lo vede collaborare con la “nuova” moglie Rie Mitsutake alias Miko – il musicista torna a rispolverare il marchio Celer, con il quale ha scritto pagine indelebili dell’ambient music contemporanea al fianco della compianta Danielle Baquet, e si affida nuovamente come già avvenuto in passato alle cure di Alessandro Tedeschi e della sua Glacial Movements.

Il brand italiano, ormai da anni protagonista indiscusso con il suo catalogo all’insegna dell’isolazionismo, torna dunque a mettere la firma su una produzione sopraffina: per quanto possa essere difficile selezionare nella discografia di un artista che da ormai una decade viaggia alla media di 5-6 dischi all’anno, “Without Retrospect, The Morning” è forse il miglior risultato del Celer solista assieme al precedente “Tightrope”. Un lavoro che riesce a fondere alla perfezione l’estetica isolazionista targata Gm (Netherworld e Stormloop su tutti) al calore proprio delle quiete trame di Long, puntando su una commistione di basse frequenze e texture quasi accennate.

Se il candore dell’iniziale “Holding Of Electronic Lifts” avvolge nei suoi accennati raggi di luce, il resto dell’album tende a giocare maggiormente con le ombre: “A Small Rush Into Exile” segna così l’immersione in un vuoto cosmico che i dieci minuti di “Dry And Disconsolate” esternano con parsimonia. Un clima plumbeo e notturno che raggiunge il suo picco nella fugace ma intensa “Variorum Of Hierophany”, per poi distendersi denso e quasi inudibile in “A Landscape Once Uniformly White”. L’alba di un nuovo giorno porta con sé in “Distance And Mortality” anche un improvviso innalzamento delle frequenze sonore, in un affresco desertico che sfuma progressivamente nel tramonto finale di “With Some Effort, The Sunset”.

Will Long nasce e cresce musicalmente in California, e “Without Retrospect, The Morning” ne è forse la testimonianza più chiara. Un disco vicino come mai prima alle lezioni impartite dai vari Steve Roach, Michael Stearns, Kevin Braheny e Tim Clark, dove l’ambientazione non è più l’arido deserto, bensì una gelida e sconfinata landa artica. L’ennesima prova del talento di un musicista che si conferma capace di descrivere con incredibile realismo le percezioni e le emozioni date da sguardi e immagini, riproducendo le stesse con perfezione cristallina.


Some pairings, collaborations are more natural than others; there are times you see two artists together and it instantly clicks. Celer and Hakobune is one such collaboration, the kind of thing I could see coming from a mile away, bound to happen eventually, but it delivers stellar results all the same. Both of these artists are known for their glowing drones, always steeped in raw emotion. On the two side-long pieces of “Vain Shapes and Intricate Parapets,” their assimilation is seamless. The line between each artist evaporates, leaving the focus on the music, which shines. Tonal shifts are subtle yet effective. This is music that is steeped in warmth, enveloping the listener as it builds in strength and potency. For two projects that have given so many memorable moments, “Vain Shapes and Intricate Parapets” is a uniquely high mark.


Viewpoint is one of the releases which Celer aka Will Long denotes as “a very special album for me, and in many ways the album I’ve wanted to make for a long time.” Assertions like this are valuable, even more so when they are coming from the respective artist of a specific work. Having been released in March 2013 on the Japanese Murmur Records label in a limited edition of 500 copies, I was able to buy the release from Will Long himself after a joint gig he did with Christoph Heemannat the Institut Für Neue Medien in Frankfurt on March 19. For the record: the cute pink flower in the upper right of the front artwork is a sticker, one of Long’s personal touches and generally not part of the artwork itself. Viewpoint was recorded between January and August 2012 and bursts at the seams. It is an album with a runtime of 78+ minutes, divided into 26 different parts complete with track titles, although it is next to impossible to assess where a new section starts and where others end. And one is probably not supposed to know. I am not being lazy here: the various vignettes and segues float into one another, their motifs are resurfacing throughout the duration, then under the guise of a different track title. Viewpoint is about quiescence, tranquility and carefreeness, but on the other hand also about shady moods, opacity and mystique. Everything is rather calm, and as it is the case with Celer’s Lightness And Irresponsibility (2012) already, darker and crestfallen tones become entangled with the arrangement and are at times rounded off by energetic sine bursts; Viewpoint is no streamlined lala-ditty of saccharine New Age moisture, but occasionally shares the characteristic traits of that genre’s pristine purity. Considering the album being recorded over a period of eight months, it is unbelievably cohesive and equilibrated. It is dedicated to Rie Mitsutake aka Miko who also forms the duo of Oh, Yoko with Will Long. Viewpoint is an aural, completely synth-based travelog about a field trip in Japan during summertime with fleeting visits of shrines, the crossing of bridges and the passing of lush forests until the endpoint in the shape of a picnic is reached. This depiction has to do it for the moment. I for one am lured by a specific sentence of Celer’s description which shall mark the end of this opening paragraph, as its meaning condenses the beauty and excitement of his trip and the various stops in the most pregnant and comprehensible way: “I was still unfamiliar with the city, but finding undiscovered experiences inside each place.”

Viewpoint opens with a section called Allegations Of Paradise, and I am not merely mentioning this title due to its state as the album’s kick-off, but because of the wonderful title itself, containing traces of Exotica and yearning as well as a pinch of doubt. Will Long starts the album with a quieter yet glaringly translucent synth scheme of the ethereal kind. Gently oscillating layers ebb and flow, rise and fall, always retaining their infinitesimally glacial grace which is then intertwined with breezes of loftiness, a condition that can be lessened at louder volume levels which unravel surprisingly feisty bass drones. Melodies do exist, but only in the form of half-tone sequences and sound surfaces rather then fully carved out strains of distinction. Speaking of distinction: only Celer knows the exact duration of the first sub-track, as the textures do not change over the course of Viewpoint’s runtime. My description hence targets many additional segments or counterfoils, possibly even accidentally so. Around the seven-minute mark, Viewpoint encounters a fair share of ecclesiasticism. Pipe organs are nowhere near the soundscape, but the tonality and atmosphere resemble a cordial solemnity that is almost imperceptibly interwoven into the endemic layers – a nod at the shrine which is visited during the trip?

After approximately eleven minutes, the bass layers return in tandem with both genteel and rather protuberant sine tone-resembling synth washes, and it is here, due to their cavalcade of glitters, that I first notice the overarching motif of entanglement between the layers: they cover any traces of nullity at all costs. Thanks to their constant undulation, the feeling of a pitch-black nothingness or a murky backdrop never occurs. The towering sine tones also elucidate the omission of haze, mist or fog. Sometimes a layer or two seem to be more aqueous and blurry than usual as they unfold in the deeper regions in-between the circumambience. Regardless of this specific complexion, every synth and tone remains crystalline, iridescent and coruscating, awash with light while scattering and distributing the luminosity themselves. It is around the mark of 22 minutes that Celer revs up the synths and offers wondrously shimmering textures full of plasticity and profundity. The listener, however, is never completely swallowed or encapsulated in an ecstatic incandescence, as Will Long stabilizes the surrounding layers which, instead of being foils or boosting devices, now show the inclination of counterbalancing the atmosphere with their calcine appearance and hatched pastel color range. Incidental slivers of gloom blend with the celestial state; maintained for several minutes,Viewpoint drifts into more enigmatic and reciprocating realms while keeping its textures intact. This vignette ends with incisive sine shards…

… which immediately make room for the soporific superimposition of benignancy and wraithlike reclusion that continues to dominate around the mark of 27 minutes, but is countered by diffuser synth apparitions which for the first time unchain a decidedly large amount of cryptic tension. Again, these impressions are only snapshots! Once the listener is contingently bewildered, the pendulum moves into a different direction, dilutes the pressure of the grey-tinted accentuations and complements them with milder undercurrents. This ongoing flow of disparity and inequality floats along for almost 15 minutes, injecting the same reappearing infusion of acroamatic synth washes and stern cascades of twilight. 40 minutes in, and Viewpoint returns to its vitreous morphogenesis made of ecclesial vesicles, a spellbinding coziness and various sumptuous vacillations, the latter of which are as shape-shifting and ever-changing as the destinations of Mitsutake’s and Long’s field trip. Wonder and peacefulness remain the superior forces from this point onwards, and Celer makes sure to submit synth showers of the meandering kinds, accompanied but not perturbed by frisky sine tones. Around the 58-minute mark, the tonal range even resembles the Robert Fripp-involving Ambient classic FFWD (1994); both Celer and FFWD never succumb to conclusive portrayals of happiness, not even when a beautiful summer day in Japan is the represented topic, but intermix shadier fractals with vivacious fractions. Perhaps consequentially, Viewpoint comes up with a fair amount of indistinct counterpointing runlets after 74 minutes, but thankfully closes in utter harmony, reduced and reserved as expected and with quieter tones, yet chock-full of seraphic streams. The final, utterly astute track title? Everything Rotates.

As with all of Celer’s albums he marks as eminently special, such as I, Anatomy (2012) and nowViewpoint, the listener faces two tendencies, each of them intriguing in their own right: for one, he or she who listens mindfully with an observant ear will eventually be lost in the attempts to decipher, decrypt and dissect the implicit reasons for each vignette’s existence. Will Long deliberately camouflages the truthful truth of the various sections despite his openness and explanatory markers such as track titles and accompanying texts, both of which curiously enough lead to the second tendency the listener encounters during the listening session, namely that of a genuine interest which will not die down regardless of the impossibility to determine or pinpoint Celer’s transparency. This crepuscular state allows and actually nurtures a less serious listening habit: it is comforting enough for a listener, I presume, to know for sure that Viewpoint is embedded in an important context, that it is an aural travelog with outlooks over treetops or riverbanks and short yet contemplative breaks at shrines and bridges which lead to the picnic in a perfectly normal field on a lovely summer’s day that slowly turns to dusk. One cannot possibly distill any of these (arti)facts in the soundscape itself, hence the – optional! – importance of the side notes and texts Will Long delivers. It is therefore possible to enjoy Viewpoint as background music, as pernicious the implications of this term may seem; it is a 78+ minutes long composition that gyrates around sunlit places, shadier locations and downright spine-tingling aortas. The stringency of the textures turns out to be an important boon in this regard, it allows a positively tranquilizing and mollifying zone out state and a deeper inspection of the balancing of sine tones, elysian gusts and scintillating New Age flecks. An important album for Celer and an enjoyable if equally dichotomous journey for the listener.