Posts from the Reviews Category

When I woke up this morning I was looking forward to starting the day with this new Celer box that landed on my desk during my absence. For a week my days had started without ambient music (but the talking of a bunch of children; not ambient at all, not complaining either), so it would be good to have a slow day of ambient music and much-needed rest. To start with my disappointment; I had hoped these albums would be at least forty-five minutes long of the signature slow Celer music, but preferably a bit longer. Well, I got the signature sound, but these discs are quite short, thirty-two to forty minutes each. I understand why Celer wants to put these out as single discs and not a double CD with all four pieces (it would easily fit), giving each all the space it needs (and maybe allowing for some adventurous mixing, should you have the means to do so). Each of the pieces, so I am told, is created with tape loops containing digital and acoustic instruments, field recordings and foley sounds. A piece starts with all the layers playing, but throughout it, there are minimal changes, slowly altering colour, spacing and placing of the sounds. None of this seems to be in regular sequence, which I like very much. If you listen superficially these seem to be gentle drones, with a slight orchestral feel to it (especially ‘Nothing Will Change’), but upon closer inspection, these loops are a bit less regular and small shifts take place in the music. This is certainly the sort of ambient music that Brian Eno was thinking of when he coined the term and added ‘to be pleasurable and ignorable’ (or among such lines). As said, for me, all four of these pieces could have been much longer than this, even up to the full length of a CD (times four! Yummy!), but that is the only downside of this for me. Nothing will change is perhaps also what one can say about the music by Celer, but maybe you can say the same about the quality of the music. Nothing will change there either; excellent all around.

Ever resourceful, Will Long continues to find ways to spin fresh variations on Celer-related themes. Never one to to shy away from large-scale projects, his latest is no less than a four-CD set snugly housed within a lovely, custom-made clamshell box and accompanied by a sixteen-page booklet. Each disc contains a single piece, the shortest twenty-eight minutes, the longest forty-three, and each setting’s accompanied by travel photos and text. The work is thematically oriented towards the future—“a meditation on future events,” in his words—in contrast to 2018’s Memory Repetitions, which contended with memory and one’s interpretations of them over time.

The sound of the material on Future Predictions is quintessential Celer, as is its tone. Serene in mood and soothing in effect, each tape loop-based piece undulates gently without pause. The material, recorded with reel-to-reel tape, envelops the listener with warm, softly wavering tones and is thoroughly capable of inducing in the receptive listener an entranced state for the full measure of its 138 minutes. Though Long generated the material using digital and acoustic instruments, field recordings, and foley sounds, the music typically presents itself as a uniform, drifting sound wash free of individuating details. In being reduced to its most minimal form, the tranquil meditations are Celer at its purest. That’s especially the case, too, when the settings largely eschew dynamic contrast and narrative development—deliberately done by Long to sustain the work’s state—for repetitive flow. Whereas some ambient artists add and subtract elements as a work advances, the four on Future Predictions start with all layers playing and continue without deviation thereafter.

As abstract and minimal as the material is, it’s not without an emotional dimension. A wistful tone emanates from the music’s carefully sustained flow to lend the material a sad, even poignant quality. In being presented so abstractly, it becomes a Rorschach capable of accommodating any number of associations or impressions the listener brings to it. At the same time, the inclusion of text and photos points the listener in specific directions and encourages particular associations to emerge. With each musical setting, for example, conjoined to landscape photos in the booklet, the images naturally colour the musical reception to some degree.

The text presents a travel journal of sorts that, in contrast to the album title, is very much focused on concrete phenomena. Tenses shift, with the narrator fluctuating between past and future, from memories (“We rode through the ridgeways, up the winding mountain crests, around and over the peaks, and looked with wonder below.”) to melancholy musings on time’s merciless advance (“Back in our house, you’re years older and all grown up, and my hair is more grey.”) A sense of loss pervades the text (“I can see us talking, but I can’t hear our words.”), the sense of something precious now forever out of reach.

While the four settings share fundamental properties, there are differences, even if subtle ones. As becalmed as the opening disc’s “Merita” is, for instance, the second’s “No Sleep In Medan” is even calmer, its drowsy character in diametric opposition to the track’s title. However simplistic in design a given piece might appear, there’s no denying the beauty of Long’s constructions. As the forty-plus minutes of “Nothing Will Change” stretch out, there’s opportunity aplenty to bask in the gentle oscillations of its tones, the elegant interwine of its patterns, and the soothing lull of its rhythmic flow. When those soft, flute-like pitches intone alongside shimmering washes, it’s hard to resist describing this particular collection of Celer music as celestial. As captivating is the closing disc, whose “Qaraoun” buoys the listener with an ascending melodic motif whose organ-like gleam proves all the more entrancing when it appears in one slow-motion wave after another. And, despite Long’s decision to downplay dynamic contrast, some degree of intensification does seem to emerge as “Qaraoun” progresses, due perhaps in part to the listener’s desire for that repeating figure to eventually achieve a state of resolution.

Celer’s second album, originally released on CDR in 2006, has been polished up, remastered and given a smart CD release here. His third album “Continents” is getting the same treatment next month. Being a fairly recent convert to Celer’s work, both releases were new to my ears.

“Scols” is the very definition of what I’d describe as Will Long’s distinctive ‘Celer sound’, a series of subtly changing, slow sonic waves, synthetic and multi-layered, outlining a rolling landscape that’s not as simple as it first sounds, and running at a slow space that strongly encourages slow breathing and relaxation, but without any of the glibness that sometimes accompanies ‘chill out’ music. Opening track “Archival footage of only the lost and forgotten” sets out the stall quite clearly.

There’s a brightness and optimism to be found in pieces like “The energy to be freed”, but there is a fair abundance of various shades of darkness offered up here too. “Without strings, fabric or glass” has a hollow, sinister feel to it. Electronic buzzing sounds sprinkled over “Municipally, I let it slip” make it more uncomfortable somehow too, while “Thoughts ultimately of consciousness” takes a slightly more aggressive approach, relatively speaking. This is sci-fi, in a way that’s not your typical full-on dystopia, but where something somewhere is clearly not right- but sonically you’re being encouraged not to worry about it.

With its organ-like tones, “Icicle sparrows of piano pitches” is the only piece that alludes even remotely to the unusual choice of cover artwork.

It’s a predictable Celer work in some ways, but fans who lap up the artist’s prolific output, but who weren’t able to catch this on its first release fourteen years ago, will definitely enjoy this disc fitting nicely into the collection.

La terza uscita dello statunitense musicista/fotografo/scrittore a Tokyo Will Long “Continents” (del 2006, originariamente un astuccio dipinto a mano in edizione limitata contenente un CDr, un mini Cdr, inserti fotografici e poetici) in versione remastered (Stephan Mathieu) + bonus track (circa un ventino di minuti in più rispetto all’originale).

Un lentissimo srotolamento di cangianti textures ambientali, pigre e rigogliose in formato doppio cd.

Ripetizioni cicliche per frasi minimali sul limite dove l’azzurro tramuta in verde, come un inceppo puntina Eno / Reich da hash, che ti schianta sul divano e procede imperturbabile per ore (quasi un paio).

Ovvio che nel fluttuar s’incontrino zone più contrastate, ma è un nulla.
Alluviale tracimazione controllata di riverberi e delays, il silenzio poco più avanti che attende (sopra, sotto, ovunque).

Originally released back in 2006 Scols was the second album from one-man US ambient project Celer- Will Long, who now resides in Japan. It’s a nine-track affair that brings together a selection of drone works that move between gloomy spectral to simmering bleak. Here on Long’s own label, Two Acorns is a recent reissue of the album featuring a  remastering by Stephan Mathieu- the reissue is available as either a CD or digital download- we’re reviewing the DL- so can’t comment on the CD’s packaging

I think I first became aware of Celer’s work ten or so years back, and have always enjoyed what I’d heard- I’d not heard the Scols release before, and I must say it’s a lot more overtly stark & forlorn compared to his later work- that utilized slightly brighter tones & field recording details. Most of the nine tracks here are based around repetitively tolling and droning loops, I guess you can hear some comparison to the likes of William Basinski and Star of Lids – but the tone is a lot more glum, troubled, and creepy.

Each of the albums nine tracks runs between six and twelve minutes- we open with one of the longer & somewhat more positive tracks on the release “ Archival footage of only the lost and forgotten” here we find a slowly circular sweep and glide of a simmer amassed string tone & a lightly warming warbling element- this felt like a more slowed & regal take on something you might have expected to hear on Stars Of The Lid’s 2001 album The Tired Sounds of….. From here on things turn a lot less bright &  lightly glowing- we go from simmer & sinister spectral drift of “Municipally, I let it slip”, which at times has a grim almost dungeon ambient feel about it.  Onto the foreboding creepy organ meets gloomy gliding & hovering string loops of “Peers and pulses”, though to the malevolent almost metallic tinged post-industrial cold ambience of “Thoughts ultimately of consciousness”. With the album finishing off with the locked angular harmonic meets gently coldly jangling hover of “And rejected as ours will be”.

On the whole, Scols isn’t as approachable & instantly appealing as some of Long’s work- but each track is well-realized & composed, and if you in the mood for grimmer & gloomy drone matter I’d  say this will hit that glum spot.

Non bastano 50 euro per comprare un CDr originale di Continents, il secondo lavoro di Celer pubblicato privatamente nel 2006. Finalmente Will Long decide di ristampare qual disco, rimasterizzato per l’occasione dalle mani d’oro di Stephan Mathieu. Il doppio CD di Continents mostra Will e Danielle alle prese con una declinazione di ambient piu bucolica e rassicurante di quella fatta ascoltare pochi mesi prima nel loro esordio: La Oroya’s Cantankerous Bells e un lento loop che si avvolge su se stesso trovando conforto in una melodia celestiale. Ancora piu romantica la seguente Bereft Oversight, un incanto di pochi secondi mandato in loop per dieci minuti. Ben due le bonus track in scaletta.

Un doppio CDr con due titoli, Sunlir e Scols. In molti hanno conosciuto cosi l’ambient crepuscolare di Celer. Nel 2005 Will Long e Danielle Baquet erano una giovane coppia innamorata del mondo, che amava fotografare con la propria musica la bellezza che incontrava. I nove brani di Scols sono stati rimasterizzati da Stephan Mathieu e resi disponibili in un bel CD venduto sulla pagina bandcamp della Two Acorns. L’album gemello Sunlir venne ristampato qualche anno fa dalla spagnola CONV e non e stato incluso nel trattamento. I nove brani in scaletta di Scols bastano a capire l’amore di Celer per i loop disintegrati di Basinski e per l’estetica analogica della 12k.

“Xèixie” στα Κινέζικα σημαίνει «ευχαριστώ» και είναι ο τίτλος που διάλεξε ο Αμερικάνος συνθέτης ηλεκτρονικής Will Long ή, καλλιτεχνικώς, Celer, για τη νέα του δουλειά. Στο γνωστό ύφος όπου κυριαρχεί η μίκρο – μίνιμαλ σε μια ατελείωτη ελικοειδή εξέλιξη από συνεχή drones- ο Long ενσωματώνει field recordings από τους δρόμους της Σαγκάης και της Χανγκτσόου, αποτυπώνει -σε δυο δίσκους- το σάουντρακ του σύγχρονου Άπω-Ανατολικού άστεως μέσα από φανταστικές ήχο-μουσικές εικόνες: η βροχή, τα αυτοκίνητα, το τσίριγμα των εκατομμυρίων νέον, ο θόρυβος των Mall-Mart, οι σειρήνες των πλοίων, το σφύριγμα του τραίνου υψηλής ταχύτητας.

Es erklingen gestreckte, orchestrale Sounds, die Atmosphären von Zartheit und Tiefe vermitteln. Ihre magische Unaufgeregtheit durchweht jeden Raum. Sich stets wiederholende Schleifen, deren Konturen die Harmonien nur andeuten, aber in ihrer Gesamtheit dann doch so etwas verspielt Melancholisches entstehen lassen. Dabei sind es erst die Wiederholungen, die diesen Samplings eine untröstliche Existenz einräumen. Eigenwillige Klangfarbenmischungen, Traumsequenzen, blühende Metamorphosen, subtile Soundtexturen, die behutsam vereinnahmen.

Seit vielen Jahren entwirft Celer, mit bürgerlichem Namen William Thomas Long, diese Sounds von bezwingender Schönheit. Schon in ganz jungen Jahren war er auf der Suche nach kultureller Identifikation. Er wuchs in einer, nach eigenen Angaben, „konservativen evangelischen Familie“ in Mississippi auf und konnte seine kreativen Ansprüche nur außerhalb dieser Enge befriedigen. Long studierte Literatur und Geschichte, fotografierte in seiner freien Zeit und beschäftigte sich spielerisch mit musikalischen Sounds und den Möglichkeiten der technischen Realisation. „Wie beim Schreiben oder Fotografieren war es nur eine andere Möglichkeit, etwas aus mir herauszuholen, das Bedürfnis nach einer Art Ausdruck. Ich erinnere mich, dass ich mich wirklich für alternative Techniken zum Musizieren interessierte, wie Geschwindigkeitsänderungen, Bandmanipulation und die Möglichkeiten des Samplings. Es war eine Möglichkeit, ein Gefühl zu erschaffen oder neu zu erschaffen.“

Bewusste Vorbilder hatte Will Long nie. Dass jedoch vieles von dem unbewusst aufgenommenen dazu beigetragen hat, seine eigene musikalische Stimme zu finden, ist ihm hingegen klar.

Er konzentrierte sich in seinem Leben immer stärker auf Musik, als auf alles andere und produzierte mit einfachen Mitteln, und anfangs gemeinsam mit seiner Freundin Danielle als Duo unter dem Namen Celer, etliche Aufnahmen. Die erste Identitätskrise hatte Long als seine Freundin tragisch ums Leben kam und er nicht wusste, ob er überhaupt noch Musik produzieren wollte.

2011 ging er nach Japan. Von Tokio aus wirkt er seit fast einem Jahrzehnt, produziert immer neue Musik, deren Wärme und Dringlichkeit beeindruckt. Wie denn der Alltag von jemandem aussehe, der bisher über einhundert Alben veröffentlicht habe, wurde er vor einiger Zeit gefragt: „Ich bin freiberuflich tätig, daher ändert sich das auch immer wieder. Aber typische Tage beinhalten das Verpacken von Bestellungen, das Gehen zur Post, das Spielen mit meiner Tochter, wenn sie Zeit hat, Geschirr spülen, Wäsche waschen, Teilzeit in Ost-Tokio arbeiten, pendeln, Freunde nach der Arbeit treffen, Plattenläden besuchen, um Platten und CDs zu verkaufen, mit der Familie zu Abend essen, lange aufbleiben, an Musik arbeiten und nachts im Park spazieren gehen.“

Völlig unspektakulär also. Zu solch einem Tagesablauf passt aber die Musik Celers wunderbar. Diese Mischung aus Ambient und Drone (La Monte Young erklärte Drone einmal als einen anhaltenden Ton innerhalb der Minimal Music) ist eine stark emotionalisierte Herangehensweise an die Musik. „Manchmal muss man nur den richtigen Wiederholungspunkt für die Schleifen finden, der einem das richtige Gefühl gibt. Wenn ich das Band bewege und den Punkt finde, an dem ich es nicht ausschalten möchte, trifft es genau diesen Punkt. Es geht fast nie darum, etwas mit der Idee zu kreieren, sondern herauszufinden, wo genau die Musik mit Ihnen verbunden ist“. Ästhetik auf der Höhe der Zeit.

L’elemento della ripetizione dà adito alle critiche più feroci (e invero comprensibili) da parte di chi non ascolta musica ambient e/o minimalista: perché soffermarsi indefinitamente su un breve estratto che si ripresenta quasi o del tutto identico a se stesso per minuti, o persino ore ininterrotte? Che ne è del tempo – sia esso il nostro o inteso in senso assoluto -?
È quello che sarei tentato di chiamare il ‘principio/paradosso di Basinski’ (titolo attribuito per i meriti sul campo, non perché sia l’unico esponente della tape music): una cellula melodica individuale, di per sé prossima all’insignificanza in termini estetici ed emozionali, acquista maggior rilevanza e rivela la ricchezza delle proprie sfumature intrinseche soltanto nel processo di reiterazione, che accresce il portato di quella cellula nel moltiplicarla potenzialmente per sempre.

Will Long, alias Celer, non ha mai scisso la sua attività musicale dal viaggio e dalla sua documentazione visiva: la composizione per loop è il suo modo di stabilire un’equivalenza approssimativa tra il suono e la fotografia, nell’utopico eternamento di un istante che è passato non appena lo si è vissuto. I quattro brani/cd del box autoprodotto Future Predictions sono il monumentale complemento a Memory Repetitions (Smalltown Supersound, 2018): con queste delicate orchestrazioni, incise su nastro e soggette a minime modificazioni additive o sottrattive, Long proietta il sentimento di nostalgia nell’avvenire, medita su ciò che lo aspetta oltre e accompagna l’avanzamento con queste suite contemplative, rincuoranti nella loro essenzialità senza un preciso fine descrittivo, capaci di entrare nella vita di chiunque e lasciare una traccia di bellezza che, almeno idealmente, non sbiadisce mai. Perciò la sua durata non rappresenta un’appropriazione indebita di tempo, ma anzi un suo arricchimento per certi versi inestimabile.