Like Will Long, I grew up in the United States’ Deep South in a town 20 minutes up the road from Memphis – not too far from where Long grew up in Mississippi. Being raised in a region where so many racial and social clashes have occurred, the Mid South has always had its (un)fair share of internalised division and strife, both politically and personally, between neighbourhoods and friends. In order to properly understand the perspective from which he’s creating this club-oriented music, one must come to understand the background Long has chosen to analyse in his work under his own name.

House music itself has a shared history in the collectively marginalised cultures of both racial and sexual minorities. The way that Long decided to explore these ideas of society in beat-driven electronic music is both a logical extension of his ambient sound as Celer and the idea that house music is a reflective culture, no doubt influenced by Long Trax collaborator Terre Thaemlitz aka DJ Sprinkles.

Here we find songs permeated with samples of civil rights leaders calling for the end of things like capitalism and the beginning of renewed social revolution. Bookended by songs with titles like “Nothing’s Changed” and “We Tend to Forget,” Long’s here to remind us what really matters in the long run: the politics of how we treat each other.

In almost every song here, the soundscape extends the synths to infinity, painting the picture of an endless dance floor horizon–a world beyond the queue, where the safety and oneness of communal movement is reflected in everyday human interaction. The press release states that “we shouldn’t need clubs to hide from our fears and differences in the outside world,” a theme perfectly exemplified in the securely sprawling sonic nature of tracks like “You Know?” and “No More”.

At times, the pads throughout remind me of the iconic organ vamps of classic soul music. “No More” is a quiet roller, a track that builds tension so well that when the digital clap comes in it’s a small revelation. With an album as hypnotic as this, it’s hard not to be moved by the spirit of what Long is trying to accomplish. Some of the beats in the songs have a less muted sound than the ones on the first collection of Long Trax, feeling more direct and angular. The rhythm of “We Tend to Forget” feels more urgent and driving than anything Long’s done up to this point. It calls us to action.

Aside from the enhanced directness, ‘Long Trax 2‘ offers little sonic progression from the original. If you’re not prepared for the subtlety of the album, the songs can drag on, but once the feeling is right and you lean into the mix, it’s a relaxing (yet still socially pertinent) listen that works well off of the dance floor. Long offers us a lot to think about once again, but we need a lot to think about in times like these. ‘Long Trax 2‘ is a more-than-worthy sequel to the first volume and hopefully another instalment in a series that continues for a long time to come.

Will Long released Long Trax about a year and a half ago, and now he’s released Long Trax 2, something of a sequel. But upon listening to it, the first question that popped into my head was why. It’s the most boring, pointless release I’ve heard in a good long while. While it’s not actively bad, as offensive to the ears, it’s dull. There are only six tracks, but each is about ten minutes long, and again, I’m asking myself why, because they never progress over those long play times. Song after song is a simple beat combined with very, very slow chord progressions, and the occasional annoying vocal sample preaching some nonsense or other.

This is a case where there’s no real point in breaking down a track-by-track analysis, since all the tracks do exactly the same thing over and over again, and do it for painful lengths of time. I specifically timed one song, and it would play the same chord for eleven seconds at a time before going onto the next one. In some contexts that could work, but when the only thing happening is a casio keyboard demo beat, it’s mind-numbing. I’m honestly puzzled as to why this was released. I’m not joking when I say that almost anyone with any musical talent whatsoever could create this music, but anyone with any musical sensibility would know better than to do so, as there’s just nothing here. It’s like the first attempt of a computer AI to create music: plodding, predictable, and interminable. And words like that are what keep popping into my head while listening. Other words include tedious, joyless, and stultified.

It’s honestly aggravating to listen to this set because I can’t figure out why it exists, or why I should be subjected to it. It sounds lazy and self-indulgent. If the tracks were perhaps one-quarter their current length, things would move fast enough to perhaps be interesting. And I’ve listened to plenty of ambient in my day. Slow music can be worthwhile, but in this case it isn’t. I gave this many chances, and came back to it days after my initial write-up, hoping to find something deeper. But there’s nothing there beyond the shallow surface. If you can ignore the sound bites, this might work as background music for other activities like work or whatever, but there’s so much else out there that’s more rewarding to the ear, I can’t even recommend it for that if I’m being honest.

Celer has been at the forefront of ambient music for over a decade now, with an enormous discography spanning dozens of releases. Fellow American John Daniel has been making music as Forest Management for almost as long. Their new collaboration “Landmarks” takes inspiration from the book and film Mosquito Coast, the story of a man who abandons the American way of life for a remote coastal region of Honduras but becomes increasingly obsessed, with tragic consequences for him and his family. Snippets from both versions of the tale are heard at various points across the album, but the narrative is not spelled out and connections with the music mostly remain below the surface.

As the opening soft, ethereal drone hovers at the edge of perception, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d landed slap-bang in the middle of Celerland. From then on, however, the album takes several detours: birds sing tunefully in a loop over an echoing thud; distant thunder and clatter draws out a gurgling in the deep; grand, majestic melodic refrains are bathed in shimmering light. There are plenty of warm ambient drones to be heard, with indistinct, barely-there textures and endless repetition marking tracks such as ‘Indistinguishable from magic’ and ‘Volcanic institutions’. But there are also moments of greater resolve and certainty, as with the plodding drone of ‘Hotel Mona Lisa’, and unexpected twists and turns such as the faint echoes of previous drones in ‘S-shaped isthmus’. I found it impossible to tell which creative choices originated with which artist, such is the seamlessness with which their respective contributions are woven together.

Ultimately I hear no judgement on Mosquito Coast‘s flawed would-be hero, even as his high-minded ideals lead him down a slippery slope of violence and obsession. The tumbling four-note refrain and singing high-pitched exclamation of the closing track ‘Rights of the idea or a machine’ could be interpreted equally easily as elegiac or as tragic. Either way, this is an album that, despite its frequent lushness, still manages to unsettle and provoke, as the best ambient drone music can.

Constellation Tatsu brings together two names in ambient music divided by massive swaths of land (Celer in Japan, Forest Management in Chicago) but united over the impact of the film and novel versions of The Mosquito Coast. Landmarks was recorded separately and assembled in traded session between the two artists and it captures the humid tension of Peter Weir’s film particularly well. The collaboration is stark and gorgeous, cut with field recordings and a knife’s edge balance of the overwhelming madness that lies as the heart of the story they’ve chosen to interpret. The two artists blend their styles with John Daniel (Forest Management) thickening the sound with an omnipresent hiss that feels tactile, as if its threading its way through the listener’s ears. Will Long (Celer), meanwhile, adds an element of tension and emotion that stretches a bit further than his collaborator is often willing to go.

That they lean on each other’s strengths makes this a crossover album in high esteem. Each artist brings their brush to the table and adds without overshadowing the other’s strokes. The result is an ambient album with a heavy emotional heart that grips the listener hard and leaves a mark. The idea of a retroactive soundtrack to a film that’s more than thirty years old seems itself like a thankless task, but whatever lit the inspiration in their shared experiences with the impact of the film appears to have wrought an album of claustrophobic dread that can stand on its own for listeners who’ve never once encountered the tale of man at odds with madness and its impact on his family. The two have crafted and album that’s haunting, heavy and oddly spectral. It shines while succeeding in its attempts to suck all of the air from the room.

Anyone acquainted with the respective discographies of Celer, the long-time project of Tokyo-based Will Long, and Forest Management, otherwise known as American ambient producer John Daniel, will come to their first collaboration with a fairly informed idea of what to expect. Such expectations won’t be disconfirmed by the cassette release, though it does contain a few surprises. Using tape machines, loops, and computers, the two have produced an audio re-imagining of The Mosquito Coast, the 1981 novel by Paul Theroux that Peter Weir made into a film five years later starring Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, and River Phoenix. In simple terms, the story presents Ford as inventor Allie Fox, who, disenchanted with American consumerism and culture, abandons the United States with his family for what he hopes will be a simpler and happier life in the jungles of Central America; needless to say, things don’t turn out quite as planned for the patriarch and his family.

Presented in fourteen parts, Landmarks offsets minimal ambient soundscapes of the kind associated with both Long and Daniel with vignette-like pieces (three each less than a minute long), and it’s the contrast between the two, as well as the variety and unpredictability of the shorter tracks, that makes for interesting listening. To that end, a serene, ten-minute opening exercise in ambient drift gives way to a three-minute evocation of the heat-drenched jungle environment, one replete with chirping birds and foreboding drum accents. Later shifts see a brief snippet of spoken dialogue lifted from the film, a minute-long swirl of shimmering vapours, and a hissing soundscape filled with clattering noises and field recordings-styled details sandwiched between the rumbling ambient lull of “Indistinguishable From Magic” and the billowing, Gas-styled hydraulics of “Embera.” Ford’s voice briefly appears in “5,000 Feet Under the Surface” to solidify the connection between the release and source material, while an ambient soundscape such as the beatific closer “Rights of the Idea or a Machine” puts some degree of distance between them.

One guesses that Long and Daniel were drawn to the project idea because of their own nostalgic feelings about another time and a way of life, admittedly one partly imagined, different from our own. Whatever it was that attracted them to it, it’s resulted in a long-form, concept-styled recording that’s considerably more engaging for being so abundant in contrast.

Celer (Will Long) and Forest Management (John Daniel): two names that continue to appear across a variety of establish labels, who have produced numerous works I not only admire, but draw significant influence from. The two collaborate together for the first time in what proves to be a gorgeous merging of two notable names within the contemporary ambient scene. ‘Landmarks’ is lengthy and contains a vast amount of sounds and texture that show off what the two artists are capable of as individuals and when combined as a single expressive entity. The opening track, ‘7° 10° 77° 83°’ (of which a simple search reveals the location for ‘Street 77’ in Cairo, Egypt), spreads an expanding bed of rounded processed tones that make way for the slightly degraded and well-worn musical textures that fade in as the track progresses. Just how far the contents of ‘Landmarks’ varies is immediately apparent upon the entrance of the second track ‘The first steps onto their soil’, that alerts the listener to the presence of vibrant wildlife and thumping percussion. The album is constructed around a sonic reimagining of ‘The Mosquito Coast’ – a novel and film of the same name by Paul Theroux and Peter Weir respectively; it is a soundtrack based on both Long and Daniel’s interpretation of the original material of inspiration. The warmth and ambiguity of sound sources that both artists achieve with great care is showcased in fine form, and leaves a lasting impression on the listener that urges further exploration into each artist’s existing discographies.

On ne présente plus Celer, désormais le projet solo de Will Long, dont nous parlons ici pour la dixième fois alors qu’il sort environ un nouvel album par mois. Après Akagi qu’il sortait sur Two Acorns, son propre label, on le retrouve cette fois sur la jeune structure américaine Sequel, fondée fin 2015.

Pour qui connait un peu les productions de Will Long, disons que ce nouvel album est logiquement dans la lignée des précédentes et on se demandera même comment il pourrait en être autrement tellement le musicien est constant depuis maintenant plus de 10 ans. Pour les autres, disons que Celer produit une musique ambient minimale, souvent rapprochée du drone.

Alors qu’il nous avait habitué aux longues pièces, Celer nous surprend un peu ici en plaçant de courts interludes entre les pièces ambient qu’on lui connait. Ainsi l’album débute avec la flûte d’un musicien de rue et des bruits de pas, posant une ambiance orientale sur ce From The Bus To The Corner, Past The Hypostyle Halls. On est à Hammamet alors que Will Long est revenu sur les traces d’un grand oncle qui s’est noyé 31 ans plus tôt au large de la ville tunisienne. Un peu plus tard on trouve des extraits d’un discours de Thomas Sankara probablement capté sur une télévision, l’ambiance sonore de la côte, le calme d’un hôtel avant que la télé ne s’allume, ou encore le bruit de la mer tout au long de The Fear To Touch The Sand.

Pièces principales et interludes s’enchaînent, formant presque une seule et même composition d’un peu moins d’une heure. Les nappes sous toutes leurs formes occupent logiquement une place importante sur ce disque, à commencer par le lancinant Spindles And Fires sur lequel plusieurs strates mélodiques se croisent de fort belle manière. Sol Azur en reprend le principe avec des tonalités un peu plus graves, mais surtout particulièrement douces, soyeuses, comme du velours, avec une mélodie répétitive.

Sur In All Deracinated Things, on retrouve plus particulièrement le style du musicien, avec un son plus dense, des oscillations moins amples, rendant l’ensemble plus statique. On sera ensuite un peu surpris par Base Haze et son style atypique avec un drone extrêmement discret qui semble parfois être noyé dans un souffle, ou le bruit de la mer qui habite l’interlude suivant.

L’album se termine sur le bien nommé Terminal Points. Le ton est ici beaucoup plus grave, mélodique mais sombre tout en restant purement ambient. Ce dernier titre fait alors écho à la fin tragique du parent de l’artiste et on devine en arrière plan le va et vient de la mer.

Si parfois on se dit que Celer joue un peu la facilité, on trouvera qu’il essaye ici d’évoluer un peu, tant dans la construction de l’album que dans son approche mélodique. Une excellente surprise.

This new, long (close to 80 minutes) release by Celer contains music that was created for an installation, of three speakers in a triangular shape; one low end, one mid end cut and one high end cut, so ideally in the middle it should be perfectly mixed, “yet evolve due to small differences in start times”. Will Long, the Celer man, is credited for piano, tape and Lexicon PCM90, which is a reverb unit. Had I not known there was piano used, I would not have guessed that, I think. Opening up the file in a sound editor to use a bit for the podcast shows a very digital music looking sound wave, which is basically one deep drone that one only notices when one hits the stop button (bass dropping out) and very gentle mid/high variations, which could very well be some kind of piano sound indeed. The music is utterly minimal. Did it change at all? I found that hard to say. It sounded very much like music that perhaps only Celer could do. Very much, and I mean very, very much drone like with a thick sound that doesn’t sound like a thick sound at all, music that is more present in your space than is actually heard; very Zen-like I guess also, perhaps very much like something Eliane Radigue could do, should she ever work with digital means. This is music that has come to a standstill, and yet it knows how to fascinate the listener. There is not something in here that you haven’t heard before in the vast catalogue of Celer, which might be a delight for true Celer fans, or a downer if you are someone who likes a bit of change.

There is a little story by Celer’s Will Long along this CD about days of work and hours of leisure, walking to and back from work and swimming, but all of which may not necessarily relate to ‘Alcoves’, or perhaps it does and the music is all about his current, quiet life? It’s not easy to say, since music if the music of Celer is very quiet and ‘Alcoves’ is not different. There are four pieces here and the first three flow into each other, whilst the fourth, about half of the rest of the CD, seems to be a piece by itself. Whatever Celer does, and after so many of his releases I still have no clue what it is actually is, it all seems to evolve (rather than revolve) about heavily computer treated sounds that form long, slowly sustaining sounds; an endless amount of sustaining sounds, slowly fading in and out. Just a few layers (it seems), adding to fragile nature of the music. This is just like many other Celer releases, and surely I made this remark before. I could look it up, but I won’t. No, I’d rather sit back and listen to the music,
flipping through a magazine, without trying to read much of it. I re-read Long’s notes about the weather, “The clouds in the distance are reaching over the islands, their overcast arms swooping and dropping warm rain”, and I look at outside to see very light clouds mixed with autumn sunshine, and while it doesn’t feel warm inside the house, it looks like a beautiful day. Its one of those days where I should consider not staying at home, but go out and have that walk myself, a nice 4KM stretch
somewhere among the small forest in beautiful sunny Nijmegen, not far away from the HQ. I could bring Celer’s music on a pair of good headphones, or, alternatively, listen to birds. I could consider that, but I won’t, knowing myself.
No, I’d rather stay inside and pick up the flexi disc ‘On Or Near Surface’, which Celer announces, is a bonus track to the ‘Alcoves’ album. I can’t drag my turntable outside on a sunny afternoon’s walk, can’t I? But I was thinking “Celer and vinyl”; is that a good combination? Now, obviously I am known to argue that good techno surely should be on vinyl, delicate ambient on CD (or higher bitrate downloads) and gritty noise on a cassette, so why should Celer put his delicate music on what is clearly an inferior medium, the flexi disc? Now, I love flexi-disc, ever since as a fifteen year getting one with the music magazine that proofed to be so important in my life, and partly that is because the quality easily deteriorates and I guess that’s the attraction for Celer as well. His music is delicate and sometimes builds from crackles and now these crackles are present in playback and the piece will further decay and crackle and it will always make a new piece of music. Good choice, and perhaps a good gimmick, for once. Not to be repeated too often, I’d say.

Impossible de suivre l’ensemble des productions de Celer, à croire qu’il compose un album en moins de temps qu’il nous faut pour rédiger une chronique ! Entre les sorties physiques et numériques, c’est une vingtaine d’albums que Will Long a sorti depuis celui-ci (soit environ 1 par mois), que ce soit des sorties personnelles (sur son compte Bandcamp), sur son propre label (Two Acorns) comme c’est le cas ici, ou encore d’autres structures (Zoharum, Cellar Door Tapes, …).

Le style de l’Américain est bien défini, probablement facilement reconnaissable même s’il ne doit pas souvent apparaître dans des blind tests. Si l’on avait été assez bluffé par le parti pris plutôt radical de sa musique, et en particulier son minimalisme, nous n’avons plus vraiment d’effet de surprise aujourd’hui. Pas de changement en effet dans le style de Celer que l’on imagine d’ailleurs mal changer de voie. Au contraire, avec cette pièce unique qui frôle les 1h20, il ne fait que confirmer sa singularité.
À l’origine Akagi est un projet un peu particulier puisqu’il s’agit d’une commande pour un événement autour de la pratique du yoga. Prenant place au Japon où vit désormais Will Long, dans un temple du Nord de Tokyo, cet événement voyait les élèves situés entre le professeur et le musicien, en fond de salle. Il s’agissait donc d’un live pendant un cours de yoga, l’artiste assistant régulièrement à l’assoupissement et au réveil des yogis.

Akagi a été produit à partir de 2 magnétophones jouant 2 boucles de claviers qui ne cessent de se croiser. L’intervention de l’artiste se faisait alors sur le niveau sonore de ces boucles et quelques paramètres des magnétophones. Le procédé est basique, l’intervention de l’artiste limitée et le résultat reflète parfaitement cet état des choses.
Pendant 1h20, l’auditeur se fait bercer par 2 nappes qui oscillent sans fin, l’une grave que l’on qualifiera de drone (pour simplifier), et l’autre tout simplement de nappe, caractérisée par son aspect aérien et lumineux. Avec ses oscillations perpétuelles mais sur des tempos différents, Akagi est répétitif mais il s’agit d’une répétition que l’on perçoit vaguement, sans pouvoir assurer que la même séquence apparaît deux fois. C’est classique pour ce type de production, mais l’album dégage un sentiment de profond apaisement, de douceur, de calme avec un niveau sonore que l’on trouvera plutôt bas. Par moment l’une des strates semble prendre le dessus, comme une envolée qui retrouvera rapidement son équilibre alors que par endroits on s’approche du silence.

Mais qu’importe ces variations anecdotiques puisqu’elles s’effacent sur la durée. Si vous ne vous êtes pas endormis avant la fin, au bout de ce périple désertique il ne vous restera qu’une impression d’unité, de fluidité et de sérénité.