Will Long, also known as Celer, has been creating ambient music since 2006. His journeys around the world (and current residency in Japan) have certainly shaped his art. The collections of sounds and moods on his newest 5-CD album, Memory Repetitions, could be played anywhere from a meditation retreat to a busy international airport.
The album consists of five tracks, the shortest of which is twenty-eight minutes and thirty-one seconds. This isn’t an album for house parties or your high-intensity cardio playlist. It’s an album of meditations, calming sounds, and mood-altering music. It’s difficult to describe, but one you’ll enjoy on your headphones as you stroll along the river or when you need to slow down the world outside your front door or even in your living room.
There are no lyrics. It doesn’t need them. It’s not an album that tells you what to think or an album that pushes an agenda. It lets your mind wander or stop, depending on what’s happening around you at the time.
Keep your mind open.
Two long pieces by Celer, thirty-three and thirty-four minutes each. Along with this Will Long send two short stories, of which I am not sure if they are available for anyone else to enjoy. Both deal with sleeping and dreaming (and remembering) and it sure fits the dream like music. As almost always I have no idea Celer made all of this. Sometimes I think it is all very much based on computer-processed sounds, but then sometimes I have the impression it is tape-loop based and perhaps all analogue. For these two pieces I was thinking about a synthesizer, which is set to playing a repeating phrase over and over again. On ‘Everywhere I Go You’re All That I See’ this phrase seems to be shorter than the one on ‘Wishes Would Be Grand If Only They Came True’. As I reviewer I am of course supposed to stay awake and pay all the attention so I can say ‘ha, this doesn’t change at all’ or ‘while you think it doesn’t change, it does’ but as I was suffering from the Friday afternoon blues and have no drinky time with my office colleagues (that’s by the way no complaint), I set back in my comfy chair, and drank some coffee; I tried to figure out if it was raining and if I should go out if it does. I believe I fell asleep for a brief moment, which may or may not be seen as a compliment to Celer. Personally I don’t subscribe to the whole ‘music while you sleep’ ethic; music for me is to be heard. But I woke from this hazy state of half sleep and Celer’s cassette was on repeat and at some point in time I had no idea if I was playing the first or the second side, and also not really for how long. Sometimes I lost track of time there, but it was a slow afternoon anyway. I decided to let it continue for some more and write some words. Maybe these, maybe others.
When an artist is as prolific as Will Long, one might assume there is little time for looking back and taking stock. Not only does the artist seem to produce a new ambient album every month, he also releases house tracks under his given name. Yet this tireless man not only makes tranquil, restful music, but pauses to reflect on fifteen years of this activity and where it has taken him. Memory Repetitions is a carefully curated piece of work, balancing one new composition against four remembered pieces. Together they form a five-disc masterclass in warm ambience, challenging and rewarding the unhurried listener.
The new piece, ‘Tetra’, is built around a sustained, fluctuating drone – the sound of a church organ half-heard. Rich, overlapping tones approach and recede like the tides. Whenever they draw close, they are accompanied by an analogue hiss like breaking surf. While many Celer albums concentrate on short tracks, Long is a master of larger, sustained pieces. Many of these use a similar to-and-fro swell that is aurally evocative and powerfully emotive, carrying the cadences of a searching nostalgia. On ‘Simultaneity’, the high water mark is more pronounced, threatening to break into something darker. In contrast, ‘Weak Ends’ has a tighter ebb and flow. Here, Long seems to capture a near-ecstatic sense of engagement that is deceptively difficult to marry with such a gradual aesthetic. This journey towards rapture is consummated by ‘Nichibotsu’ (Japanese for ‘sunset’, reminding us that Long is an American who lives in Tokyo) and ‘Caprice’, which each cast the hymnal and chorus shapes of devotional music.
This accomplished, self-assured piece of work is available in physical form from Smalltown Supersound, a Norwegian label home mostly to Scandinavian releases in various other genres. It should be noted that there is a mastering error on the fifth disc, which the label has promised to rectify. While the box set’s title points to its recycled content, the concept of memory works at a number of other levels in Long’s music. It is hard not to project a mournfulness into his backward glance, given the passing of Danielle Baquet-Long, who originally made Celer a duo. At a more practical level, one of Long’s key tools is the tape loop, which manipulates a form of physical memory to produce ethereal textures. Across each half-hour piece, repetition carves a mark in the memory, making the music seem familiar and recollected even as it unfolds.