Tokyo based ambient musician Will Long’s 100th release as Celer was inspired by a trip to China – and from the opening recordings of traffic, bicycle bells, whistles, horns and overheard conversations Xiexie (Thank You in Chinese) conveys the feeling of the attentive traveller: overwhelmed, watchful and far from home. The intriguing track titles and the accompanying train-interior imagery (made by Machinefabriek’s Rutger Zuydervelt) effortlessly pull together the disparate threads of a journey, invoking the peace that comes from being disconnected from your surroundings, moving at high speed yet feeling suspended in time.
For the most part, Xiexie plays out in a seamless continuation of sounds that shift slowly in a liminal flow. However midway through, “For The Entirety” pulls you out of the sedation induced by the brown noise hypnotherapy of the previous tracks and into a more traditional assembly of string timbres and loops that feels spacious and cinematic.
The more musical pieces – “Rains Lit By Neon”, “In The Middle Of The Moving Field”, “For The Entirety”, “Prelude To Obsession I & II” and “Our Dream To Be Strangers” – undulate in waves that impart a feeling of being suspended in time and space. Gentle cycles of delayed tones overlap each other in loops, a simplicity that belies the density of sound and movement. In the midst of the extended, uplifting sweeps of cadence that slide in and out of focus, shorter, more finely calibrated excerpts of recordings give context and form to the shapeshifting drones; the sounds of cities and train stations, children and speaker-announcements provide a sense of place.
A favourite moment during “(06.24.17) Birds Inside The High Halls Of Hangzhou, (06.23.17) Shanghai Red Line, Metro Karaoke” involves the increasing pitch of an accelerating metro train, inducing a momentary feeling of unease, paired with the rhythmic beat of a tambourine made by a pair of disabled beggers wandering the aisles of the carriage. Celer’s assuredness of tone and execution achieves a delicate balance of genius loci, human feeling and musicality.