Posts from the Reviews Category

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.

Ecco is a record made for a children’s lecture on dolphins and the sea, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about. One can certainly find those themes in the music if one looks for them: there’s a subaqueous vibe to the sound for sure, its tones muted and dampened as water tends to do; there’s a suggestion of depth and isolation from the familiarity of air, but that’s not quite what I hear.

Ecco isn’t water for me, it’s glass. Rather than imagine a world beneath the surface of the waves, I imagine one from behind the surface of a pane, a physical barrier to the outside and yet one that allows us to continue to look at the events unfolding beyond it. Walls and roofs, they provide shelter and security and are undeniably important, but glass does something just as crucial once we’re inside: it provides a portal to the space outside of our homes and offices, a hole with which to glimpse just a part of the world we have to remind ourselves we’re part of sometimes, traced in yearning drone.

Windows are a place of safety and comfort, chances to watch the world go by for the times when we’re not able or willing to be part of it. When I was younger I used to sit on the windowsill at home on rainy days and watch the sky fall on suburbia, tracing raindrops down the frames and marvel at the water gushing from the gutter. And despite the buffer, one can still feel the force of nature behind it when the wind pummels and the rain drums; you can hold your hand to its cool plane and know the strength beyond it, as one can feel the bass rumbles quake periodically through Ecco’s somnolent core.

The smeared, dreamy synth drones of this record ebb and flow with the same isolated quietude you can feel just watching everything go by, each delicate movement drifting languidly one into the next in a succession of barely experienced events seen with half-opened eyes. One could be forgiven for thinking this record melancholy, but that wouldn’t be fair; blue perhaps, lonely quite possibly, but in the final 5 minutes where the gossamer strands turn to twilight I feel nothing more than a sense of delicate thankfulness for our transparent protector.

Hypnotische Wirkungen aus Loops und modulierter Wiederholung zu ziehen ist nur der vielen Möglichkeiten von Psychedelik. Genauso lassen sich ihre Wirkungen auch aus Wiederholung ohne Wiederholung, also aus einer fraktalen Entwicklung ziehen, von Sounds die im Laufe der Zeit immer selbstähnlich bleiben aber nie gleich. Ein unumstrittener Sensei dieser Disziplin ist Wahljapaner Will Long. Sein kaum noch zu überblickender Output als Celer ist fast durchwegs von einer Art des sich selbst immer wieder annähernden und wieder abstoßenden, umsherchweifenden beinahe-Nichts charakterisiert. So ist auch Another Blue Day (Glistening Examples) typisch Celer, warmer Drone-Ambient. Extrem leise, aber mit Bass.

“Another Blue Day” is a beautiful expression of simple relaxation. A succinct arrangement of gentle, faintly reed-organ-like synthetic tones wash and ebb back and forth with supreme patience, while… that’s it. This release neither provides nor needs anything else.

The straightforward, deeply soporific tone continues for 42 minutes, easily enough to lull all but the most agitated of minds into a relaxed state- or full-on sleep. Sometimes it’s so quiet you begin to suspect you’ve paused it by accident.

It’s split into two parts (“Another Blue Day”, “And Another”) and the second part has an extremely subtle difference in tone that’s barely noticeable- somehow it’s marginally more fragile, with quicker changes in tone a small step in the direction of conventional melody. But save for an interlude of silence that separates the two, you would be hard pushed to tell that the second part has started.

The epic simplicity of “Another Blue Day” if you’re looking for a musical expression of lying in the grass and staring at length up at a cloudless sky. And sometimes that’s all you need.

On Background Curtain (ZOHARUM ZOHAR 129-2), we have a collaboration between Celer and Dirk Serries. Celer, i.e. the American Will Long, is familiar for his minimal ambient music which can be quite beautiful on occasion, and his Inside The Head of Gods was judged by us as a “masterpiece of understatement”. Belgian droner Dirk Serries used to be Vidna Obmama throughout the 1980s, and also recorded as Fear Falls Burning, a project where the weapon of choice was a guitar.

I suppose both players have an interest in long tones, subtle shifts of timbre, and a creative approach which involves much processing work. Processing is certainly the hallmark of Background Curtain. In fact it seems to be the basis for the entire piece. Celer sent a tape to Dirk one fine day in 2012. The time-stretched segment of collaged work was, to its creator, “puzzling and unworkable”. Yet Dirk came through and rallied like a Hessian, and returned something to Celer. At this point the tape-trading story becomes unclear to me, but it seems that Dirk didn’t actually rework the original unworkable tapes, and instead produced something entirely new while he was listening to them. Another year goes by, and Celer (clearly not a man to rush into things) has the brilliant idea of mashing up the new Dirk Serries music with his original source recording. He got to work behind his multi-tasking processor desk. “The musical colour and frequencies were the same,” he assures us, “but the effects and enveloping were triggered by the waves of Dirk’s track”. This feels a little sketchy, but I think I get the general idea, and I can understand why creators would wish to protect their working methods by shrouding them in vagueness and ambiguity.

Two long pieces ended up being pressed on the present CD as a result of this long and drawn-out creative process – ‘Above/Below’ and ‘Below/Above’. The first one is a slow-moving blanket of swaddling ambient sounds where everything sounds processed and unrecognisable, yet not to the point of becoming saccharine goo. On the second piece, it’s just about possible to discern some guitar notes, keening their forlorn cries like slowed-down seagull effects from a Bill Nelson performance. However, there’s no real point in trying to unbake this sonic pie; the point that Celer wishes we would concentrate on is the presence of what he calls the “background curtain”, presumably referring to his original “puzzling and unworkable” source material. I think he’s right to call it a curtain; it’s certainly not rigid enough to be called a spine or backbone. “Even if you can’t hear its place, it’s definitely there,” he assures us. “Maybe you can hear it?” From 23rd November 2017.

La polacca Zoharum produce nell’ottobre dello scorso anno questa collaborazione tra due mostri sacri della musica ambient e dello sperimentalismo quali Dirk Serries e Will Long aka Celer. La storia di questo progetto collaborativo confluito poi in “Background Courtain” comincia nel 2012, quando, dopo alcuni scambi di LP tra i due, Long invia una lunga traccia che riuniva dei pezzi sonori da lui prodotti a Serries, trovandoli inutilizzabili e sperando che l’artista belga riuscisse a ricavarne qualcosa. Tempo dopo, Serries invia a Long una serie di tracce ispirate dall’ascolto di quel nastro, ed usando come base la traccia definita ostica ed inutilizzabile all’inizio, i pezzi di Serries vengono avviluppati ad essa creando appunto questo album formato da due lunghe suite ambient sospese ed impalpabili, soundscapes da altri mondi dalla presenza allungata e riverberata. Disponibile in edizione strettamente limitata a 300 esemplari in digipak a 3 pannelli, con artwork dall’effetto vintage – molto inerente al contenuto sonoro – creato da Rudger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek) e basato su una foto dello stesso Will Long.