Posts from the Celer Category

We’ve covered a number of releases from Will Long, more commonly known as Celer, but Xièxie is likely one of his most pure explorations of his unique fusion between field recordings and smooth ambient textures. Long, who lives in Tokyo, took to the streets Shanghai, through the rain and amid nature to deliver one of his most searingly beautiful works to date. He fluidly travels from active noodle shop to a REM cycle inducing passage without a moments notice, generously setting the mood with some of the slow, lulling cadences found in common with work by William Basinski, Max Richter or Robert Rich. But here on this very lengthy release Celer orchestrates string-like chords (In the middle of the moving field) that seem extended for days on end, giving way to reflective modulations that swirl like thin fabric suspended in water.

After every third track there are intervals of curious in-situ recordings that capture the space and time between the intonations of drone and distance. Long really understands how to captivate the listener with this investigatory pauses within the otherwise bountiful release, and looping of harmonious light and shade (For the entirety). The birds and tiered street voices, the Chinese train station announcements, the bustle of vehicles, all lend themselves into and out of this dynamic and beguiling state of consciousness in flux.

Xièxie – translated into English as ‘thank you, thanks’ – is a journey through China. Celer’s trip began with a dictionary and a phrasebook. Day and night, rain wept from the sky, ripped from an open wound in a leaden cloud. Shanghai was lit in ultra-bright light, a fantastic neon display, and swirling grey mists. The ground fog never mirrored the fog of insomnia, because this city never slept. Nights were just as busy, a role reversal of the working day, an upside-down city where sleep vied with activity, and the lack of light brought seedier, sludgy aspects. The bright, eye-piercing lighting, the HDTV screens, glowing like artificial suns, blocking out the inky darkness of midnight, and the 24/7 supermarkets became the nightly population, its quieter traffic the only difference between night and late afternoon.

Will Long manages to condense the atmosphere of place into extended and patient drones. Car horns blare out, and pedestrians – tourists and locals – throng the streets, standing in clumps, under fire from a spattering of cool rain. Delayed drones lie softly out of focus, smeared like a taxi’s headlights in the rain. Will stands just outside a metro station, in a square beside a nearby park, where its trees overhang, draping outwards like a leafy skirt. A construction site sits silently, sleeping for a couple of hours. The exhausting nature of travelling isn’t lost on Celer, as his tones are a little jet-lagged, doing the red-eye, staying up all night to observe the square, the street, the noodle bar (‘From the doorway of the beef noodle shop, shoes on the street in the rain, outside the karate school’), the people, and documenting it. In a sense, this is his camera, his phrasebook in which dialect, culture, and atmosphere translates into sound.

This is music of transit. It never slows down, and the drone’s tempo is deceptive. At first, it sounds like it’s in a 100m race with a snail, but that’s an illusion. The ambient music passes onto Hangzhou, rocketing past apartment buildings and open fields of farmland on the Maglev, which reaches speeds of 303 km/h. The train itself is indicative of the journey, and a metaphor for his trip. It flashed by in an instant, a singular photo shot on a single day, in a month, in a year, in a life.

Xièxie is a journey and a thank you, a music born from an appreciative heart. The dreamy loops and the long, unspooling drones have a rhythm of their own, never seeming to lose energy, never flat-lining or turning into a mere exercise. Instead, the loops gracefully unfurl, like the passing landscape, and like those fields of purity, there’s an organic tone to the music, which gives it a feeling of comfort, or sedation. This is a safe place. This is a good place. For Will, the trip was a touching experience, and you can feel that in the music, in the way it carefully and patiently unfolds, and repeats. The longer drones – some reaching up to and over ten minutes, and ‘For the entirety’ is twenty-one minutes – are suggestive of Will’s feelings. He doesn’t want that moment to end. He doesn’t want his journey to end, even as it one day must, even as seconds keep on ticking, and the train continues to hurtle along, producing barely a shudder. Likewise, Long’s ambient-dusted drones are gentle and smooth to the touch. Tender. Staying in the moment, the music marinates in itself and in its memories, as if it were in a beef noodle mixture of its own. Stay with me, the music says.

The announcer’s voice bleeds into the whirring of the train. The field recordings turn into long, outstretched echoes, becoming distant, like subway trains as they leave the station and thunder into the tunnel, leaving behind an ominous rumble emanating from the heart of its blackened mouth, but lasting for minutes at a time; sound left in freefall, eternally delayed.

‘I fell asleep, as you were dancing, but to no music. The lilies on the lake nodded in the rain, dipping into the water. There was a Wal-Mart near the hotel where I won a pink bunny from a claw machine. I remember the beauty of the architecture of Hangzhou station, birds swirling around the pillars near the top, the echoes of the deep station interior, and the laughing at being lost. There at least we have each other, that memory, or that daydream’.

The music is sweet and sensitive, and the coda, ‘Our dream to be strangers’, lightens the tone, as if it were above the clouds, with warm light pouring through the gaps in the drone, ascending in altitude. The effect is the same – we’re still passing through at speed – but the tone is different. Above all, the music is full of gratitude. It’s full of thanks.

Even so, there’s a constant sense of not wanting this time to end, even though it will, and it burns at the heart. Nothing lasts forever, and time doesn’t slow down. It only increases its pace. The adventure’s over before you know it, and the flight home is boarding. Xièxie was the only word he ever got to use.

It’s so rare when someone delves deeply into this realm and comes up with so much from so little. I still adhere to the adage that Not Boring is the highest honor you can bestow upon ambient drone and Celer have consistently held up the highest standards within this most difficult to pull off label. I Wish You Could is two 30 minute cuts. “Everywhere I Go, You’re All That I See,” is one of those sublime cuts I’ve found myself putting on repeat and just letting it play two or three times through, until I decide it’s time to emerge from this dream and reenter the world.

Edito originariamente su and/OAR nel 2008, “Nacreous Clouds” viene oggi ristampato sulla propria Two Acorns con diverso packaging e remastered dell’opera a cura di Stephan Mathieu. Celer, era allora progetto statunitense formato da Will Long (unico intestatario dal 2009 della sigla trasferitosi poi a vivere a Tokyo) e la sua ex moglie Danielle Baquet. Field recordings, nastri, violino e violoncello sfiorati e trasfigurati, trattamenti digitali e laptop. Le nacreous clouds, meglio note come nubi di madreperla, si trovano nella stratosfera polare d’inverno e grazie al mix fra altitudine, curvatura terrestre e bassa temperatura, ricevono e riflettono la luce del sole, risplendendo di spettacolari e mozzafiato increspature di colore acceso, prima dell’alba e dopo il tramonto. Capito tutto?

Eno + Eno in tutte le possibili declinazioni ambientali dal pastorale al brumoso, più un sottile tot di ricerca psicoacustica da sound installer. Bene sarebbe stato, nel catalogo di chiaroscurali soundscapes della Hypnos. In cuffia e riproduzione random uno spettacolo.

I started walking to work in the late fall, out of necessity.

The brakes went out in the car that I drove—had been driving since 2005, and the repairs it needed were entirely too expensive to take on for something having little to no value, and was barely being held together as it was.

During this time in our lives, what I had started calling ‘The Year of Silence,’ walking to work has not been an issue, or created much of an inconvenience for me. I used to come home on my lunch break, but at this point, it is not imperative that I do so; I can bring my lunch to work, and find some quiet part of the building to eat it in where, hopefully, no one will bother me.

We, thankfully, don’t live very far from where either my wife, or myself, work; for me, it takes roughly 15 minutes to get in the morning—sometimes a little longer on the way home.

The late fall, and into the beginning of winter, is not the best time to begin walking anywhere, really, but I found ways to make due with the drastic fluctuations in temperature—especially in the morning, before the sun rises, when it can be the most brisk.

At work, when my colleagues express concern over my walks—the length, the temperature outside, etc.—I tell them I do not mind, and that I use it as a time for ‘silent reflection.’

Depending on how I’m feeling when someone asks me what kind of music I listen to, I may tell them that I primarily listen to old John Coltrane records, rap music from the early 1990s, and ambient droning. I don’t really use my 15 minutes in the morning, then, again, in the afternoon, as a time of completely silent reflection—I have been trying to make the best of my walking time by listening to music on a second-hand iPod that, much like the car I used to drive, is barely being held together.

Sometimes it’s an album I need to focus on listening to for review purposes, and other times, it’s something simply to serve as an enjoyable soundtrack for the walk to or from work.

I’ve found that now, since we are truly in the winter of my discontent, listening to ambient droning pumping in through my headphones as I trudge through my neighborhood—especially on mornings when it has either just finished snowing, or is still snowing, creates this bizarre feeling that is both comforting, yet unsettling.

Will Long, per the very brief bio on his Bandcamp site, is ‘an American artist living in Japan’; on his personal Instagram page, you’ll find nothing but a steady stream of very dramatic, artistic photographs, taken with 35mm film; however, you will not find any information about the music he produces under the moniker Celer.

As I’ve spent the last two weeks, give or take, immersed in the sprawling new release from Long,Xièxie, which roughly translates from Chinese to English simply as ‘thanks,’ I was trying to recall how it was that I first became introduced to Long’s compositions—it turns out it was through a one-off collaborative LP he put together with the, at the time, like minded composer, Nicholas Burrage (nee Szczepanik), Here, for now, released in 2015.

That effort lead me to check out one of Long’s 2015 additional efforts, the charmingly titled How could you believe me when I loved you, when you know I’ve been a liar all my life, as well as one other release from the same year, Templehof.

As Celer, Long is overwhelmingly prolific. In roughly the last three years, he’s put out 10 releases—and not just digital efforts dumped on to Bandcamp; no, everything is given a proper physical edition as well—mostly CDs, with the occasional LP or cassette.

Xièxie is an ambitious project for Long—a double album, put together into two very distinct parts that, in a way, are structured to mirror each other; together, the record totals over 90 minutes of music, with extravagant physical editions including silver or black vinyl, along with a double CD set, or two cassettes.

With the physical products available in June (a bit of a long time to wait, I know) the digital version is made up of the anticipated individual mp3s, but what you get when you buy Xièxie also, smartly, includes seamless versions of the record—put together in two very lengthy files, leading one to believe that until the silver vinyl is spinning on my turntable, these are the intended way to listen.

Xièxie is less of an album that you simply just listen to; it’s more of an album that you experience—it has a transformative, transcendental power to it that Long pulls off effortlessly. From the moment it begins with a field recording, as the album’s true ‘first’ piece slides in underneath it then takes over, until the very last drone dissolves into the ether, you are at the mercy of Long, who is, in a sense, holding you captive, in the dense, evocative atmosphere he’s weaved together.

Everything moves faster than we can control. Days are just flashes, moments are mixed up but burned on film, and all of the places and times are out of order. If it could only be us, only ours. If it was ours, if it was us. Sometimes everything goes faster than you can control and you can’t stop, much less understand where you are. 

I hesitate to say that Xièxie is a concept album, but it is a very self-contained work, with its tone and structure inspired by Long’s trip to China in 2017. He discusses this, somewhat ambiguously, on the Bandcamp page for the album, stating that before he left, he bought a phrase book and dictionary to help get around, but by the end of his travels, the only word he ever used was “xièxie.”

His reflection on the trip is quite beautiful, and haunting—much like the music that this trip wound up inspiring, and throughout Xièxie, Long does an impressive job of being able to take the evocative imagery of his travels—including the self-described rainy, foggy, glowing days and nights in Shanghai and the cacophonic rhythm of the city, to the frenetic blur of speeding to Hangzhou on a bullet train, and translate it into glacially paced, stark, and gorgeous pieces of music.

But, of course, the field recordings included at the beginning of each half to Xièxie assist with immersing you in this world. The album’s opening track, “From the doorway of the beef noodle shop, shoes on the street in the rain, outside the karate school,” is, exactly what it sounds like it would be—setting the tone that is slowly introduced underneath the sound of children shouting in unison as they begin a karate exercise and the perpetual drizzle of the rain. Aptly titled, “Rains lit by neon,” the mournful, pensive drones come rushing in and Long manages to sustain them in the small pattern with which they oscillate for over 8 minutes.

The length of these pieces on Xièxie is another thing worth discussing—as well as the patience you must have with an album like this, and the kind of “it takes as long as it’s going to take” kind of mindset Long must possess when composing the, again, aptly titled “For the entirety,” which spans 21 minutes and change, arriving at the end of the album’s first ‘side’ as it were; it’s a beyond majestic, swooning kind of piece that is, again, structured around a minimalistic pattern of changes that swirls, and swirls, and as it does, it completely envelops you.

Across Xièxie’s seven long form compositions, Long manages to craft the kind of melancholic, wondrous drones that have an almost immediate, dizzying, and visceral emotional reaction with you. He spends the album walking the line between sounds that are hopeful but bittersweet, and incredibly reflective and somber—sometimes all at once; it’s an album that is the kind of thing you can, all too easily, become lost in, and the emotional gravity tethered within these sounds needs to be heard to truly be understood.

Celer aka Will Long is one of the most prolific and well-known ambient artists of the last decade and a half. Based in Tokyo he has released a plethora of music visa imprints such as Home Normal, Infraction, Spekk, Dragon’s Eye Recordings and his own Two Acorns label.

This release clocks in at just under Sixty-seven minutes in length, with both tracks clocking in at over thirty-three minutes each.

Long is a master at creating large-scale pieces that work with tectonic plates of sound gradually moving over each other, slowly changing texture and color and before you know it you are drawn in by the hypnotically repetitive nature of the music which calmly washes over you and draws you in.

Of the two tracks, “Everywhere You Go You Are All that I See” and “Wishes Would Be Grand If Only They Were True”, I lean towards “Everywhere…” as my preferred piece. Maybe its the older I get that I become more attracted to music that evokes a sense of calm in me. I find that music that has a grating quality no longer registers with me than music that is conducive to being absorbed easily. Musically like Basinski’s slow form repetitive loop works “I Remember…” has a hazy, melodic, glacial, lush essence which relaxes the listener. The noted quality is it could possibly send the listener to sleep, such is the gentleness. It’s when you listen deeply to it that you notice the subtle changes throughout that may be easily overlooked. There is a wind soaked ambience, synth drones and an orchestral feel to the music that lightly ebbs and flows.

The flip side “Wishes Would Be….” while having melody is more on the ghostly, slightly cold, drone side of things. The repetition and loops are also there, but are more truncated, while a long linear drone runs through the center of the piece. There is a slight desolate, industrial like quality to the track, as if it’s the dying embers of a factory. It makes sense that the two tracks are split by sides on a cassette as they are like flip sides of each other. For as much as they share together, they are also very different beasts.

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.