Posts from the Reviews Category

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.

It is virtually impossible to consider any work by Celer in complete isolation, such is the omnipresence of his musical output. With over 100 releases spanning a period of 15 years, there is some inevitable crossover between each work, and the composer has concocted such a defined and personal sonic tapestry that his name alone conjures up a highly specific ambient tableau. In the case of I Wish You Could, however, such pre-emptive expectations are somewhat collapsed by a work that both invokes and exceeds any prior understanding of what a Celer album might be.

The album can be summed up in a single word – sparse. It is without doubt music for sitting alone to, a work of such solitude and fragility as to have a tangible effect on the attentive listener. That it draws upon the fairly well established oeuvre of William Basinski or even Leyland Kirby, is clear, perhaps more so than on any previous Celer album, despite such comparisons having been made in the past. It is an album that explore repetition with an almost Deleuzian finesse, not so much replaying its limited motifs as reframing them across time, and in turn denying the listener anything other than an active, co-constructive role within the composition.

The opening track, ‘Everywhere I Go You’re All I See’, stretches out less than 10 seconds of material to over 30 minutes, with very little – if any – indication of change. Celer provides no structure, no narrative, just that same repetitious phrase over and over again for what feels like a minor eternity. As a listener, the effect is phenomenal. Without registering any sonic difference, I can feel the piece mutate and grow, with unexpected overtones seeming to emerge vicariously before me, leaving me utterly unsure whether I am entirely imagining the subtle drift that constantly tugs at each repetition, the claustrophobic, inexhaustible fog that clouds both the music and mind. The relationship between the memory and the auditory is made resonant by the loss of any punctuation, any moment that might tie the listener to a specific spot – I find myself drifting in and out of consciousness, unable to focus on the piece and in doing so allowing it to colour the lived experience of being as I oscillate between the everyday and the disparate, disjointed recollections that the work digs up. Put simply, change is not experience as a property of the music, but as a property of the listener, made present by the sonic world in which they are immersed.

Whilst I have enjoyed Celer’s work in the past, I Wish You Could stands out for its refusal to adhere to even the limited narrative form present in many of his other works – there is no beauty here, no invocation within the music itself, only the cold and immovable residue of a composition to which the listener holds no access, an almost clinical phantom affect that is utterly mesmerising. Whilst the second track, ‘Wishes Would Be Grand If Only They Came True’, follows the same model as the first, it is no less effective, offering a faintly punishing journey that feels the ‘easier’ of the two works by virtue of the fact that, roughly 15 minutes in, the listener can detect a moment of actual change in the form if a slightly accented lower frequency that momentarily raises itself above the otherwise static parapet.  Resonances emerge and dissipate without grandeur, providing not so much a background for other, more pressing activities, as an immersive event, an encompassing nothingness cast in start opposition to the hyperactive flux of modern life.

As an album of so little resource, it is almost easier to discuss what it is not – it is neither a careful study of frequency  nor an exploration of timbral development, neither a structured narrative nor a formless drone.  Rather, it is in every sense a signifier of presence, a work that relies fundamentally on a collaboration with its listener and that, in doing so, assumes a state of attentive listening that it simultaneously exhausts. It is not a composition as such  – it is a constant search for difference.  Whilst on the surface at least, I Wish You Could may seem less beautiful, less expansive,  than some earlier works, this is only because such terms suggest a musical capacity the album not so much omits as transcends – it may not be beautiful in any traditional sense, but it is beyond doubt an example of Celer at his most affective.

E una ristampa fatta per festeggiarne il decimo compleanno, cosi “Nacreous Clouds” (nubi madreperlacee) torna sulla terra con un piccolo vagito. L’opera di Celer (duo composto dall’ormai ex coppia Danielle Baquet e Will Long) riletta dieci anni dopo non e solo un’operazione nostalgia e il venire a patti col il rimpianto, il dolore, un presentimento infinito ma una sentila reinterpretazione della visione; musica contemplativa, ancella di una natura indifferente come i suoi fenomeni, le nubi madreperlacee per l’appunto, l’elemento mancante del film Ten Skies di James Benning.

Back in Vital Weekly 1060 I was pleasantly surprised by a release by Will Long, as Will Long, called ‘Long Trax’, a nice pun on his name as well as the fact these were long pieces indeed. The real surprise was in the music, which was all house music; deep house music as Will calls it. I am no expert on the nomenclature of dance music, but I sure l loved that release. Here we have the follow-up album, again long tracks to be found here, six in total and there is a similar familiarthread going through all of them. Some very smooth synth sounds, almost nightclubbish in atmosphere, guided by some great beats, strong on the 4/4 of course, a fine set of percussive sounds and sometimes vocal samples that repeat lines off and on. I am not sure if there is the same political motivation behind all of this as on the previous one, but some of the samples seem to suggest that, in ‘That’s The Way It Goes’ or ‘The Struggles, The Difficulties’. A visitor to the HQ heard this and said it was fine background music, but then we were talking along all the time; when I turned up the volume and we shut up for a while he mentioned that it could be indeed an excellent minimal floor filler, so there you go. This is music that aims to please the feet as well fine background home listening. The surprise of Celer’s Will Long is not here again, but it sure is a pretty damn fine follow-up.

Last week I mentioned the first time I wrote about Machinefabriek and how many times I used music by him in the podcast. This will not turn into a weekly feature, but here I mention it again but in connection with Celer, of whom I used 25 bits in the podcast and thus probably reviewed a little more than that. There is also good reason to mention this as here we have ‘Nacreous Clouds’, which is a re-issue and it happened to be the very first time Celer was mentioned in these pages, all the way back in Vital Weekly 645. I am not sure why this is re-issued, although my best guess would it was unavailable for some time. I would think Celer is a highly productive entity so there is always something new to release. On ‘Nacreous Clouds’ Celer was a duo of Danielle Baquet-Long and Will Long and of course you know that Baquet-Long passed away in 2009, following that it is now a solo project. (…) Now, ten or so years later and hearing so many other works by Celer (which is far from their entire output), it’s quite interesting to hear this again; especially the short format of the pieces is something they didn’t do a lot since, so I believe, and while each of the thirty-seven pieces as an individual title, it is very well possible to experience all of this as one long work, cut into various shorter bits, ranging from a mere minute to several, each like a cloud passing in the sky; that is not today, which is a bit greyish and no wind, but somehow the moody textures of Celer seem to fit very well this kind of weather and just like the first time I heard it, I can safely say: my kind of weather. For those interested if there is a difference between the two versions, I am very happy to report that this is a remastered version, expertly done by Stephan Mathieu (who is in the process of making his mastering work into a proper business; I should be independent of course, but he seems the right for this kind of music).

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.