Posts from the Celer Category

I probably still have my original copy of the earlier version on Dale Lloyd’s amazing Seattle-based and/OAR imprint (circa 2008), but instead of comparing/contrasting, I am listening to this anew a decade later. This was one of the final projects for Celer when Will Long‘s then wife, Danielle Baquet, was involved as a duo prior to her untimely passing at age 26 in 2009 – now reserved as a solo project for the ex-pat American composer living in Japan. Their sound was uniquely refreshing in the ambient world, seemed new somehow to my ears. With the ample usage of processed tape loops Long recommends playing this on shuffle, so the sequencing is open-ended, and I can appreciate that as a lover of all things Fluxus.

So this ten year anniversary since the original release has seen an onslaught of field recordists, the advent of Bandcamp, the re-re-re-emergence of ambient and drone artists like never before — so how does this stand up these days? Let’s go into the stratosphere and find out. There are 37 tracks here, just as on the original, and with my iTunes on random…..

Scarfs, Blisters and Night Lights comes up first, and it’s as if a spotlight is rotating to capture something by the sea, something in the murky depths. It’s a bit unsettled, and like many of these very short snippets, flows well into Metal Master, even though it was track four and this is track eight. There’s a layer of calm in the ambient detachment here. Very similar to the slow pace of Passing Hills and Still Windmills, layered between tones and drones. I force the next track, Peak Pressure, to play because I want to experience something lengthier, and at just over five minutes this is it. A bit of low range modulation makes for a segregated dreamscape. That because the furl is sticking to its corner. I’d imagine losing a loved one, in hindsight, would make one lose themselves in the clouds – and I can see why it might be timely to take a look back to move forward.

The atmosphere runs from warm to icy, moreso the latter, throughout, although not heavily relying on too many effects, there seems like a simplistic purity to the playing here. It’s emotional and engaging, fleeting and human. There seems to be some understanding of rural sensibilities, something divorced from the chaos of the big city, a feeling of calm, the rare type it takes to make a garden grow. They seem to get the importance of pace, and in their way it’s got a very meditative aura (To Be Holy, Be Wholly Your Own, Ice Deserts Over Ross Island). Then there are pieces like A Minor Echolocation which are more like a harmonica around a campfire with a quieted group of friends, and the glints of light and smoulder –  its like an abstract, lyric-less folk song.

There are several tracks named after clouds, and it gives you the impression that the two may have appreciated a staycation, camping from their cozy spot on earth, watching the clouds pass. It doesn’t necessarily become a romantic scenario, moreso an artistic fusion of thoughts like the meteorological masses themselves. The record uses waves of pitch to move it along, after a while there’s shoegaze ambient impression that echoes even as each vignette passes, just like those clouds, up, up and away – into the ether.

Ten years after its original release, Celer’s Nacreous Clouds is proof positive of the timeless nature of finely crafted drone recordings. This welcome reissue is also notable for the first-rate remastering effort turned in by Stephan Mathieu.

The and/OAR label printed 300 copies of the 80-minute LP back in 2008. In those days, Celer was a husband-and-wife duo: Will Long and Danielle Baquet. Together they turned a series of tape loops and a bit of digital processing into an evolving sonic patchwork.

Unlike lengthy works like Brian Eno’s celebrated Thursday Afternoon, Nacreous Clouds features 37 short pieces. Hit the shuffle button and it’s a different experience virtually every time.

The lush serenity of this album stood in stark contrast to the world it was delivered into. A decade ago we watched a financial crisis of global proportions play out in the final months of George W. Bush’s U.S. presidency. A mix of poor policymaking and plain old-fashioned greed led to a world-wide slump that we’re still feeling the effects of.

Its scope was unimaginable. No-one could say with any confidence how bad things would get. I asked an executive I was working for at the time what he thought of the whole thing. “Kevin,” he said with complete seriousness, “it’s like we’re peering over the edge of a cliff.”

Amidst all of that, this beautiful, calming work of art came along to remind us that not all would be lost. No matter the headlines, no matter the bank statements, talented artists like Long and Baquet could still make the world a better place.

When it was first released in 2008, back when Celer was a duo rather than a solo project, the recommendation that you should listen to this album using the random shuffle function on your CD player would present no problems. With digital downloads now dominant many new listeners to this remastered re-issue may find it easier just to listen sequentially, but the net result is the same.

This is a collection of thirty-seven short related ambiences, super-gentle chord beds and slow melodic drones, ranging in length from under a minute to just over five minutes, resulting in the CD-friendly 79-minute total. The ebb and envelope of each track is such that the silences inbetween tracks feel like part of the whole, and the result, regardless of listening order, sounds like one coherent 79-minute work. Individual track labels mostly feel irrelevant, but there are colder sections like the glassy tones of “Petrified Forest”, distant mechanical-sounding hums in “Hyperopia”, grouped with warmer and somehow friendlier-sounding hums in tracks like “Echelons”. But all the differences are subtle, to put it mildly.

It’s a mesmeric, sleep-playlist-friendly work and while copies of the original 300-strong 2008 edition are not that hard to find, it’s a welcome remastering that should hopefully find a wider audience.

Celer, das seit 2005 aktive Ambient-Projekt des US-stämmigen Multitalentes WILL LONG, war bereits des öfteren Gegenstand von Besprechungen auf dieser Seite, weshalb auf weitschweifige Einführungen zur Abwechslung einmal verzichtet sei. LONG, der 2016 und 2018 mit zwei fulminanten Deep-House-Alben unter seinem bürgerlichen Namen überraschte, gründete und betrieb CELER gemeinsam mit seiner Frau DANIELLE BAQUET, bis diese 2009 im Alter von nur 26 Jahren verstarb. Seitdem führt er das Projekt alleine fort und hat die interessierte Öffentlichkeit bis heute mit einer schier unüberschaubaren Fülle von Veröffentlichungen geflutet – discogs etwa listet zum Zeitpunkt der Niederschrift dieser Besprechung bemerkenswerte 124 Alben auf. Beim vorliegenden Werk “Nacreous Clouds” nun handelt es sich um eine remasterte Neuauflage des 2008 beim US-Ambient/Environmental-Label and/OAR erschienen Albums gleichen Titels, das LONG damals noch gemeinsam mit seiner kongenialen Ehefrau eingespielt hat – auf seinem eigenen Label TWO ACORNS reüssiert es jetzt sozusagen als “10th-anniversary-release”.

Angesichts einer Veröffentlichungsrate mit dermaßen hoher Taktung wie der CELER’schen bleibt ein gewisser Wiederholungsfaktor naturgemäß nicht aus – zumal in einem eo ipso eher strukturarmen Sektor wie dem Ambient-Genre –, dennoch dürfte es kaum strittig sein, dass CELER in dieser Hinsicht nochmal mit Verve einen obendraufsetzt: gehässige Zungen mögen hier einen massiven Redundanzfaktor bekritteln, wohlmeinendere Zeitgenossen erkennen hingegen das bewusst intendierte Stilmittel, welches konstitutiv für die Programmatik des Unternehmens CELER im Ganzen ist – und “Nacreous Clouds” bildet in dieser Hinsicht nichts weniger als eine Ausnahme, sondern steht einmal mehr pars pro toto für das musikalische Schaffen des Wahl-Japaners WILL LONG unter seinem CELER-Moniker, will heißen: Ultra-kontemplative, monoton an- und abschwellende, spartanisch konzipierte, drone-artige Soundschleifen, so weit der Gehörgang reicht. Im Unterschied zu den meisten anderen frühen Veröffentlichungen, die nur höchst selten mit Track-Laufzeiten unterhalb der Zehn-Minuten-Marke auskamen, umfasst “Nacreous Clouds” indes stolze 37 (!) Titel (deshalb diesmal auch keine Einzelauflistung!) mit durchschnittlichen Laufzeiten zwischen anderthalb und drei Minuten, was nach einiger Zeit, bedingt durch die ausgeprägte Gleichförmigkeit der Stücke, allerdings kaum noch auf-, geschweige denn ins Gewicht fällt. Wie immer bleibt zu konstatieren: Ohne Frage ein wunderbarer Soundtrack für meditative Zwecke sowie die ideale Hintergrundbeschallung während stiller Beschäftigungen wie Lesen oder Schreiben, da hier lediglich reine Atmosphäre ohne das geringste ablenkende Moment generiert wird. Der Titel des Albums leitet sich übrigens von einem meteorologischen Phänomen, nämlich den Polaren Stratosphärenwolken, her, die auch unter dem bestrickenden Namen Perlmuttwolken (engl. nacreous
clouds) bekannt sind und – nomen est omen – vornehmlich in den winterlichen Polarregionen in Höhen von über 20 km auftreten. Die bisweilen spektakuläre, perlmuttartige Färbung, der sie ihren Namen verdanken, resultiert aus der Brechung des Sonnenlichtes an den Eis-und Schwefelsäurekristallen, aus denen sie im wesentlichen bestehen.

Das nur als kleines Bildungsbonbon am Rande, soll schließlich keiner behaupten, hier könne man nichts lernen. – Laut CELERs Bandcamp-Präsenz erscheint “Nacreous Clouds” übrigens im “4-panel, reverse board ecopack CD package” – ob das nun bedeuten soll, dass man es am End’ auch guten ökologischen Gewissens einfach wegschmeißenkann, sei diskret dahingestellt. Von Limitierungen ist jedenfalls nichts bekannt, insofern …

Fazit: Mit “Nacreous Clouds” liegt eine Wiederveröffentlichung vor, die das Herz des bekennenden CELER-Freundes mit Sicherheit charmieren wird, wenn sie dem ausufernden Oevre des Projektes auch kein Jota hinzuzufügen weiß, das nicht schon x-mal durchdekliniert worden wäre – doch was soll’s, wenn’s gefällt? Und das tut es. Auch der Neueinsteiger in den CELER-Kosmos kann hier bedenkenlos zugreifen, denn “Nacreous Clouds” vermittelt einen absolut repräsentativen Eindruck von dessen Essenz im besten Sinne. Dringend vom Kauf abgeraten sei freilich all den innovations- und sensationssüchtigen Abwechslungsfanatikern, die so zahllos durch unsere irrlichternde “Informationsgesellschaft” taumeln; dergleichen kurzatmigen Hektikern kann man nur entgegenhalten: “Bitte gehen Sie weiter, hier gibt es nichts zu sehen.” – Dass gerade DAS der Witz ist, verstehen die eh nicht.

Landmarks is the first collaboration between two artists who need no introduction. The more experienced Celer (Will Long) is joined by the up-and-coming mid-western master of plaintive ambient-drone, Forest Management(John Daniels). Their two styles are distinct but here it is difficult to tease out who is doing what.  The result is, therefore, a coherent take on collaboration more than a dialogue between two individual voices.  “Embera” is somewhat reminiscent of the forest ravescapes of Gas. The tape is book-ended by “7° 10° 77° 83°” and “Rights of the idea or a machine”, each ten-minutes of dreamy loops oscillating between past and present, hope and despair, book and film. Landmarks takes as its source material The Mosquito Coast, both the Paul Theroux novel as well as the 1986 film starring Helen Mirren, River Phoenix, and Harrison Ford. Three of the 14 tracks are short interludes consisting of vocal samples from film, each showcasing a different of the film’s stars. Once solution to the deep malaise of the present seems to be a retreat into nostalgia, but Landmarks interest in The Mosquito Coast works just as well as a warning of the dangers of nostalgia.  While we may empathize with the distrust of consumerism and bleak outlook on the future, the hubris of Allie, Harrison Ford’s inventor, should be enough to warn of the dangers of trying to build utopia on the fantasy of the primitive. The general sense of foreboding, critique of romantic retreat into individualism and colonialism, seems well suited to the present moment.

After a decade of these words on this music, I think I am slowly beginning to drift into that period of reminiscence, reflection and nostalgia, which is often associated with “the way things were”. It’s easy to proclaim that “things are not the same these days,” which, of course, is true, from both, positive and negative perspective. If things were the same would I want them that way? And isn’t my appreciation of the present observed only in contrast to the past? Was “that” indeed better or worse, and if so, how would I act to determine its future? It’s too much to ponder on (especially at 6am on a Thursday), but I am, nevertheless, aware, that the thought has occurred more than once in the past.

In order to properly perform this retrospective which would yield strong results, one must have a point of reference. This is a “stake in the ground,” sort of speak, which captures times in a very low fidelity resolution – the rest is filled up by our mind, with what we call “memory”. But beyond the nebulous and often distorted representation of the past, what we do have are the concrete documents to remind [I like that word: “re- mind”] us of the past: some photographs, some words, and yes, of course, all this music. Playing through a piece of history often can feel like a time-travelling feat, shifting your mind to another place with “that feeling” still present. The olfactory sense is the strongest one for this trigger, often sending one spinning into a particular sense of the past, but it is also effective with music… as Celer‘s Nacreous Clouds clearly confirms.

In 2008, Celer was a collaborative husband and wife duo of Will Long and Danielle Baquet, creating music, first for each other, and only then, for the world. There were many releases, often hand-made and unpublished, with 2008 marking the first year that Celer was beginning to gain traction with labels like Spekk, Slow Flow, and Infraction. Nacreous Clouds landed on Dale Lloyd’s and/OAR imprint, focused on environmental and avant-garde sound art, for which the album was a perfect fit. Using tape loops and digital processing, the duo constructed a slow-moving climate of gaseous states, that drifted across the frequency spectrum in a soft cloud of harmonic dissonance. The 37 short vignettes on an album explore different formations of sound, spreading their sonic tentacles deep into your mind. This is where they trigger a memory of a time and a place, which can not be described in a few honest words.

In our private correspondence, Will shares the following:

I thought about something that was different at this time… as time has passed, I’ve grown to use more direct experiences for the inspiration of music. However at this point in 2007-2008, it was near the beginning, and it was almost the opposite… stumbling across an idea or concept (like nacreous clouds) that can somehow associate to a more direct experience or feeling or musical quality. It’s a method I don’t use as often now, but I can appreciate it for connections that direct experiences don’t have, or for the listener, some kind of natural, fascinating association to take their minds away. I guess we’re all trying to get away from something or get something out.

I wonder if, that “something” that we’re all trying “to get away from” is the scary perception of “now”, or even more frightening, the unperceivable spine-chilling future, and so our minds tend to find the comfort and ease, in the post-processed and filtered remembrance of time. Our minds tend to hold on to this former fictitious account, to put in perspective the moment of now. In order to really connect with the present, one must simply let go, time-travel, and visit the past. Was it really better, and if so, how much? Music, at least to me, can serve as a tool, especially one as “memorable” as the one gifted by Celer. This newly remastered album by Stephan Mathieu is a great demarcation of time, to those early beginnings, and a newly found stage. Recommended as a random shuffle playback for about 2-3 hours for a full effect.

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.