Posts from the Celer Category

The cover image immediately brought back memories of my own trip to China in 2016. I think I made an almost identical picture in that high-speed train. And, like Will Long, we also bought a dictionary and phrasebook but never got beyond that word for ‘thank you’: Xièxie (谢谢).

Celer‘s XièXie is a double album (2LP/2CD) documenting his impressions from travelling in China in June 2017. Some of the tracks have a date and are field recordings with descriptive titles like Birds inside the high halls of Hangzhou, Shanghai Red Line, From the doorway of a beef noodle shop, or, indeed Maglev at 303km/h. Other tracks are Celer‘s distinctive loops, unhurried and intensely relaxing. There are eleven different tracks but they are mixed into two uninterrupted dreamlike journeys (the download contains two extra tracks with uncut versions of the album).

There’s a contradiction in the cover image of a train moving at 303 km/h and the slow music it contains. But looking out from a train at that speed the world seems to be moving slower, not faster.
XièXie is a recommended soundtrack for everyone that feels life is moving too fast.

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.

L’ultimo capitolo della sterminata discografia di Will Long a.k.a. Celer, destinato a essere il penultimo nel giro di pochi minuti. La cosa davvero sorprendente e che, a dispetto della prolifica discografia, fatta di CDr, downloads, qualche CD e pochi vinili, la produzione di Celer e sempre di impareggiabile livello creativo e certamente questo Xiexie non fa eccezione. Ambient DOC, droni suggestivi, layers elettronici mishiati a field recordings, continuum elettroacustici.

Impressioni di pioggia, autunni mistici, nebbie impertinenti, estati estatiche; l’ascoltatore – protagonista di questo catalizzatore – aggiunga il propio se, poiche assai poco contano le indicazioni fornite o le note di copertina. La musica di Celer, evocativa e arcana, e pronta ad avviluppare il vostro inconscio, sottolineare i desideri, accarezzare le memorie. Xiexie (grazie, grazie tante in cinese) si presenta come un’uscita importante, testimone di un viaggo e un contatto con la Cina contemporanea, disponibile perfino in vinile e, come del resto tutti gil altri album dei Celer, e semplicemente, disarmantemente ammaliante, ipnotico e magnetico: un compagno per serate solitarie e meditative, un complice del profondo silenzio. Un album da ascoltare e da consultare, assolutamente da avere.

Früher war nicht alles besser. Gegen den Wunsch von Künstler*innen, Neues zu machen, ihre eigene Stimme zu finden, spricht wenig. Viel sogar dafür. Innovationen in der Musik halten selbige am Leben und in Spannung. Doch es spricht auch einiges dafür, ab und zu Halt zu machen, sich umzuschauen, was es denn da so gibt und wie das überhaupt ist. Denn die Ersten sind nicht immer die Besten bzw. nicht immer die einzig Guten. Beispiel Ambient-Techno mit Field-Recording-Samples. Viel Käse vorhanden, wenig Herausragendes. Das 1997 veröffentlichte Album »Substrata« von Biosphere ist wohl eines der allerpositivsten Beispiele. Es klingt altbacken, aber heute hält ja so gut wie jede*r sein Richtmikro aus dem Fenster und wirft die Ergebnisse ins Netz. Selten hat man als außenstehende Person einen Mehrwert. Viel zu oft fehlt zum Beispiel das musikalische Etwas – wie auch immer das aussieht –, welches das Interesse hält. Will Long alias Celer (Ex von Danielle Marie Baquet alias Chubby Wolf) ist einer dieser Ambient-Musiker*, der massenhaft Alben veröffentlicht, jedoch hie und da mit seiner Arbeit ins Schwarze trifft. So wie auf dem neuen, von einem Aufenthalt in China inspirierten »Xièxie« (heißt Dankeschön auf Chinesisch). Nicht nur versucht Long, die Stimmung der Umgebung einzufangen und als Inspiration im Booklet anzugeben. Er benutzt gefundene Geräusche, wie z. B. den Losfahrsound der Berliner U-Bahn auf dem Album »Tempelhof«, und baut diese in einen absolut hörbaren Track ein, lässt sie in seine Musik einfließen. Wie auf genanntem »Substrata«, nur ohne dessen begleitende Dub-Sounds, die dem Material einen gewissen Schwung verleihen, erwarten einen äußerst stimmungsvolle, zum Teil heftige Drones, die auch mal wie die Loops von William Basinski durch die Wiederholung von Themen über eine langen Zeitraum ihre Intensität erzeugen. Die verregnete, neblige Stimmung Shanghais ist zu erahnen, lässt man den absolut kalten, monotonen 20-minütigen Höhepunkt »For The Entirety« auf sich wirken (vgl. »Melancholia« von Basinksi). Celer macht hier wirklich nichts bahnbrechend Neues, vor allem nicht in Anbetracht seiner eigenen Diskographie, aber die Art, wie er es tut, macht ihn hörenswert. (Gemastert vom Meister Stephan Mathieu.)

Celer’s latest album, Xièxie, is a daunting undertaking at first glance. Not only does it read like a travel diary, but in-between the ten-plus minute tracks are interludes, sound recordings that narrate the beautiful textures that bookend each glimpse into Will Long’s trip to China.

It’s a tale of juxtaposing sounds that come together as a sublime narrative of travel. Field recordings form intros – instead of becoming part of the main tracks (as you’d likely expect from an album like this) – but thats the point. Upon each moment of significance, Will takes you elsewhere, painting a glimpse of voyeurism and scattered, slow motion activity. Drawn-out loops of dreams from a window turn into water paintings and a pensive, dystopian backdrop.

Simple and refined, this will become my perfect recommendation for anyone looking for the sharp point of emotive ambient music – it’s all here: narrative, escapism, texture, story and reflection. One to get lost in.

‘Xiexie’ is a Chinese word meaning ‘thank you, thanks’. When Will Long went to China he bought a dictionary but in the end, only used this word. These two CDs reflect something of that trip to China, using four field recordings as starting points. So the first CD opens with some street sounds and people talking but then slowly, over the course of two minutes moves from fading out these street sounds and the drones then move in and slowly, as ever with Celer, transform from one thing to the next. Music that is like cascading waves breaking on the beach, but all in slow motion. In ‘Rains Lit By noon’ (disc one, second track) there is a pleasant mild distortion to be noticed but the piece ends near silence before going into ‘In The Middle Of The Moving Field’, which the kind of Celer you know best, flowing beautifully and right at the end the next field recordings come in and that’s only a brief fragment of a train at 303 Km/h (you could have fooled me) and two more lengthy drone pieces. Throughout it seemed to me that the pieces on the second disc were a bit more ‘distorted’; you have to count in that in the quiet world of Celer anything ‘less quiet’ may count as a bit distortion. There is of course not really ‘noise’ on this record, far from it; it just is a little something different, and occasionally at that, that is going on here, such as in the closing track ‘Our Dream To Be Strangers’. That makes that this Celer is a bit different from many of his other works, and while not a radical break with the old ‘Celer’, for me at least quite a surprise. Also available on 2LP!

It would be great if there was some simple way for casual Celer fans like myself to easily distinguish Will Long’s major statements from the ceaseless flow of minor releases, but there seem to be glaring exceptions to every system that I have attempted to devise.  In the case of Xièxie, however, Long helpfully took the guesswork out of the matter, as this might be the most heavily promoted album that he has ever released.  Happily, his instincts have proven to be well-founded, as Xièxie definitely ranks among the upper tier of his overwhelming oeuvre.  I would probably stop short of calling it a start-to-finish masterpiece or my personal favorite Celer album, but I would be hard-pressed to think of anyone else churning out ambient/drone music as enveloping and sublimely lovely as Xièxie‘s bookends.

It is admittedly a bit redundant to mention that Xièxie (“thank you”) is an album inspired by bittersweetly beautiful memories of a specific time and place, as transforming lingering memory fragments into lush, soft-focus dreamscapes has been Will Long’s stock-in-trade since Celer’s very beginnings.  However, I definitely appreciate the poetic reminiscence that Long wrote as an album description.  For one, it establishes a lovely and evocative context: two lovers once took a train trip from Shanghai to Hangzhou, a period that is now distilled to a series of flickering images of neon lights, rain, birds, and blurred scenery seen through the window of speeding train.  Moreover, that literary component is vital to understanding and appreciating the full scope and depth of this project: without it, it is very easy to view Celer’s oeuvre as a vast ocean of similar-sounding releases.  To be sure, Long is quite good at what he does, so even a run-of-the-mill Celer album can be enjoyable, but there are a lot of relatively interchangeable albums for every landmark release.  One could argue that the latter is only possible through Long’s seemingly obsessive work ethic, but one could also argue that those less exceptional moments could have simply been kept in the vault rather than released.  However, that would undercut the larger vision (or at least what I imagine that vision to be): Celer is like a vast impressionist diary or novel unfolding in real-time.  Some chapters are certainly more vivid and memorable than others, but they are all integral parts of the whole’s gradually unfolding arc.

Much like the work of William Basinski, most Celer albums religiously adhere to a distinctive template of simple loops repeated into infinity–the biggest difference between the two artists is primarily one of scale, as Long traffics in a kind of slow-motion, widescreen grandeur.  In that respect, Xièxie is textbook Celer, as each piece is an elegiac procession of dreamlike, billowing chords that beautifully approximates massive clouds lazily rolling across a vast horizon.  The tone is almost always one of sublime melancholy, but Long has proven himself to be a master at articulating different shades of that narrow emotional range by deftly manipulating lightness and density.  The midsection of Xièxie is populated with one lengthy and archetypal variation of that aesthetic after another, though they are interspersed with brief interludes of field recordings made during the trip.  Each substantial piece meets Celer’s usual high standard of quality, but the subtle divergences from the formula that open and close the album stand out as the most compelling and distinctive pieces.  In the case of the opening “Rains Lit By Neon,” Long simply allows the field recordings and his music to bleed together so that his heavenly chord swells slowly fade into a collage of street sounds.  It seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but it very effectively creates an illusion of added depth.

The twist is similarly minimal and effective on closing “Our Dream to be Strangers,” as the central theme sounds like a fragment snatched from an especially majestic bit of synth-centric ’70s space music or prog.  It still ultimately sounds a hell of a lot like a Celer piece though, as the loop seems to leave a lingering and hazy vapor trail that obscures it more and more with each repetition.  The moral here is that it does not take much innovation at all to make a Celer song stand out from the pack.  Of the two excursions, however, I am most fascinated by the artful collage of field recordings overlapping those first few minutes of “Rains Lit By Neon,” as I do not understand why Long does not make that a recurring, defining trait of his work.  Given that he is an expat living in Japan, his field recordings certainly seem unique and interesting to me as a listener.  Also, from an artistic standpoint, it seems like Celer’s entire aesthetic is an abstract evocation of specific places and moments.  As such, it would make perfect thematic sense to include the actual sounds of those places for added texture and enigmatic meaning.  Goddamn it–now it sounds like I am complaining about an album that I genuinely enjoy: the important thing here is that Xièxie is an excellent album.  Its flashes of greater inspiration unavoidably remind me that Long is a visionary artist who too often disguises himself as a solid ambient composer, but I am damn grateful that those flashes of inspiration exist.

Throughout the last decade, Will Long continued handling the candle of light of that very special Celer sound even when darkness has swallowed it all. The consummation, content, and most importantly consistency of his output has remained the guiding torch in my nights as well. The Discogs page lists over 200 releases and 2019 sees already a few, on Patient Sounds Intland Avalance Recordings, but it is for his very own Two Acorns imprint that Long retains the best. The Chinese word Xièxie (谢谢), which translates to ‘thank you,’ accompanies Long on his journey to Shanghai, where memories, imagined or very real, flood all his senses with grey passing rain. The deep inner longing, regretful nostalgia, and glum melancholia permeate every soft wave in a mist of the sound, captured in fast-moving trains, alongside sad doorways, or places of hope, where waiting in vain we lastly close eyelids, and rest in a dreamless, forever remembered, but sadly invented, reflected deep sleep. “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.” Be sure to read more words by Long on the Bandcamp release page to get a full sense of the atmosphere. The album was mastered by Stephan Mathieu with a cover design by Rutger Zuydervelt. Available as a 2×12″ silver limited edition, as well as on black vinyl, digital, and compact disc. A highly recommended meditation on the being and the past tense of all the memories to be.

Under the moniker of Celer, American musician, writer, & photographer Will Long has released a staggering amount of material – a wide assortment of drones, soundscapes, sketchworks, and processed loops. No doubt his many followers each have their own favorites, but personally I always find his work most compelling when he creates deeply immersive on-location narratives such as Sky Limits (2014) which presented a sense of daily commuter life in urban Japan, or Two Days and One Night (2016) which wistfully retraced the steps of an elderly uncle’s tragic visit to Tunisia in the 1984.

Long’s preternatural ability to capture scenes and emotions in a kind of musical amber and then turn it into a story comes to the fore again on Xièxie, in which he takes us on a journey from Shanghai to Hangzhou on China’s high-speed rail line. Like a cinematographer who slows fast-moving action on celluloid for dramatic effect, Long turns the journey into a mesmerizing soporific reverie punctuated by scene-setting cues like the bustle of a busy station or the whir of a speeding train. To deepen the immersion, he narrates the excursion in the liner notes with all the eloquence of a novelist.

As we settle into the journey, it becomes intertwined with memory and metaphor. There is a destination stamped on our ticket, but that is only part of the story as Long takes us not only forward, but inwards as well.

Past is prologue to the arrival and the arrival is a prelude to new memorires and even deeper introspections.  The trip may come to an end, but the dream goes on and on…

As author Pico Iyer once said, “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves”. By the time this album drifts to its conclusion, I felt as I had done a little of both. Xièxie nĭ, Will.

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.