Format: Box set, CD
Label: Two Acorns
Release date: 1/2/20
CD2 No Sleep In Medan
CD3 Nothing Will Change
Future Predictions is a set of ensemble pieces made with tape loops, from digital and acoustic instruments, field recordings and foley sounds. With a focus on introspection and imagination, each piece begins with all layers playing, with minimal additional long-term structural development in order to maintain a state. Each piece of music is accompanied by photos, and text written with a shifting tense.
As a follow-up to 2018’s Memory Repetitions which was based on memory and the interpretation of it over time, Future Predictions is instead based on the idea of future situations, and should be seen as a meditation on future events.
All music was recorded with high-quality recycled reel-to-reel tape. It has been mastered by Stephan Mathieu at Schwebung, and designed by Rutger Zuydervelt.
Limited edition, custom-made clamshell box, 4xCDs in pocket sleeves, and 16-page booklet. Digital version includes PDF booklet.
Celer’s Future Predictions is a vast and ambitious work: spanning four discs, it’s an ambient exploration on a truly grand scale. Each disc contains a single longform track, each running at around half an hour, with the shortest, ‘No Sleep in Medan’ clocking in at 27’30”, and the longest, ‘Nothing Will Change’ 42’36”.
According to the write-up, the compositions are made with ‘tape loops, from digital and acoustic instruments, field recordings and foley sounds’, and ‘with a focus on introspection and imagination, each piece begins with all layers playing, with minimal additional long-term structural development in order to maintain a state’. There’s a conceptual lineage here, if not an auditory one: Future Predictions is the follow-up to 2018’s Memory Repetitions which was based on memory and the interpretation of it over time. Future Predictions, we learn, ‘is instead based on the idea of future situations, and should be seen as a meditation on future events’.
While the various elements of tape loops and various instruments are indistinguishable, combining in their simultaneity to create soft, supple sonic washes, hovering drones interweaving interminably, the overall effect is incredibly immersive.
The first of the four, ‘Merita’ is light, drifting like mist over dewy expanses of grassland at sunrise, and while I initially find myself waiting for some progression, expecting some transitional shift, after a time the stasis becomes the end in itself.
‘No Sleep’ inches into darker territory, with deeper, rumbling low notes but after a few minutes this sense of difference dissipates in the drift of elongated notes that have no clear definition, no forward trajectory, no overt sense of movement, but instead hover and hang in the air for all time. ‘Quaraous’ brings new layers, new tones, new, shades, a shimmering light and swell of organ to the proceedings, and for a time it again feels different, but again, that difference fades over the course of half an hour of sameness.
The effects of Future Predictions are cumulative. It’s true that on a purely practical level, few, if any, are likely to listen to all four discs or digital files in succession, although it’s in this context of continuous play that it works best. Admittedly, this is not music to listen to, but to allow to drift by. You don’t listen: you feel it and on a subconscious level as you drift, and you let life happen and continue as normal. I read and replied to texts and emails, while the sound swelled and hummed in eternal undulations. They didn’t transport me anywhere, they didn’t ‘do’ anything. And yet, inducing a certain sense of sedation, of slowness, of tranquility, they achieved everything.
Explaining why one Celer album is significantly better than another is no simple task, as Will Long is generally an extremely consistent artist who has released a huge volume of warmly lovely, loop-based ambient drone albums. Consequently, it is dangerously easy to take his artistry for granted, as a casual listener would not be crazy for finding a lot of Celer’s oeuvre relatively interchangeable. From my perspective, however, Celer can be viewed as Long’s tireless and Romantic quest to conjure up fragments of melody so achingly sublime that they can be looped into infinity. In that regard, Long has rarely come closer to realizing that dream than he does on Future Predictions. These four lengthy compositions capture Long at the absolute peak of his powers, resulting in the rarest of achievements: a 2+ hour album that leaves me wanting more and regularly inspires me to start it all over again as soon as it ends.
One aspect of Will Long’s artistry that I have always appreciated is his ability to evoke the sense that there is a deep undercurrent of emotion, mystery, and meaning lurking within his work, which is a trick that very few other ambient artists are able to pull off. It certainly does not hurt that Long is also a fitfully brilliant minimalist composer, but there is definitely something larger and more compelling than that happening with this project: Long has amassed a vast body of work that feels like a bittersweetly beautiful, impressionistic, and ever-expanding palace of memories. As befits a release as ambitious as a 4-CD boxed set, Future Predictions is an especially poignant and enigmatic example of that unusually intimate and diaristic approach to art, as Long accompanies the music with a small booklet of poetic writings, travel photos, and some enticingly cryptic other images of elusive meaning (a black and white photo of a forest fire at night, a picture from an early 20th century Antarctic expedition, a grainy image of the Dead Sea). The song titles deepen the mystery still further, as they make reference to cities in Sumatra and Lebanon. Presumably, all have some ties to Long’s own travels and personal memories, but that is not made explicit nor should it be considered a given: Long is certainly welcome to craft any poetic fictions he wants while straining to express the ineffable. In fact, all of the accompanying texts and image might be a fiction, as Long describes Future Predictions as “a meditation on future events” and a sort of inversion of 2018’s backwards-looking Memory Repetitions retrospective. Still, I would be very surprised if Future Predictions was not largely inspired by real past loves and snatches of beautiful memories. This is a Celer album after all.
Notably, there are allegedly some field recordings buried throughout the album, but they are far too well concealed to provide any further illumination (though I would be very impressed if they were field recordings from the future). In fact, just about all of the source sounds have been blurred and processed into floating, billowing unrecognizability on Future Predictions, as Long’s layers of loops mostly resemble an orchestral recording that has been dissolved and stretched into abstraction. For what its worth, my favorite pieces are the two bookends, though the gulf between them and the other pieces is not a large one. Moreover, all four pieces are unified by their similar structure and tone. Long made a conscious decision to avoid any overt “long-term structural development” within these pieces, so all of them begin and end with the same rich tapestry of collaged motifs in place. The result of that approach is that each piece feels like a sustained dream state that lazily churns with deep drones and swooning, sensuously intertwining, soft-focus melodies. Like a lot of Celer albums, these pieces evoke a mass of thick, slow-moving clouds broken by vibrant streaks of light, but the majestic ascending melodies of a piece like “Merita” suggest the beginnings of a brilliant sunrise as well. In fact, only the more simmering and brooding “No Sleep in Medan” lingers in melancholy, as the remaining three pieces transcend wistful meditation to take a brighter, more hopeful tone. In the wrong hands, such a tone would likely lead in a saccharine direction, but Long has the lightness of touch and intuitive grasp of dynamics and contrast needed to make it work. The closing “Qaraoun” is an especially lovely example of that mastery, as its gorgeous ascending melody has a hallucinatory, shimmering texture that feels like it is echoing around a vast cathedral leaving a trail of quivering, ghostly afterimages in its wake.
The only arguable caveat with Future Predictions is that it is essentially just four elegantly crafted and layered loops allowed to unfold in floating stasis for roughly half an hour each. That will likely drive some people mad, as there truly is no noticeable development within each piece. I have a hard time relating to such a grievance though, as I would be just as happy if this album were just one of those four repeating motifs extended for two hours. Long’s brilliance as a composer lies in the juxtapositions and in the details, so I see no reason for any further transformation to occur when the initial theme is already gorgeous, immersive, and hypnotically meditative. I only find myself wishing something new would happen when I do not find the central motif fully absorbing on its own, which is why I was so fond of the prominent field recordings on Xièxie: they made good songs more rich, more textured, and more interesting. A piece like “Qaraoun,” on the other hand, is simple, perfect, and fully realized right from the start so no further embellishment is needed or desired. In fact, that statement applies to just about everything here. I cannot pretend to have a comprehensive recall of Celer’s entire catalog, but I cannot think of any other albums that are this consistently strong from start to finish. As I have said about William Basinski in the past, it might seem deceptively easy or lazy to compose a piece from just a few endlessly repeating notes, but achieving the balance of rhythm, small-scale dynamics, and shifting harmonies necessary to cast a sustained and beautiful spell requires an enormous amount of skill and patience. As with Basinski’s best work, Future Predictions makes that process seem effortless and organic, but that is precisely because Long is a master illusionist able to produce a distillation so lovely that no traces of the intricate, meticulously shaped scaffolding remain.
Im März erscheint bei Two Acorns ein neues Album von Will Long alias Celer. Die vier Stücke auf “Future Predictions” basieren auf Tape Loops von digitalen und akustischen Instrumenten, Field Recordings und weiteren Sounds. Jedes der instrospektiv ausgerichteten Stücke der CD korrespondiert mit Bildern und Texten, die im umfangreichen Booklet abgedruckt sind. Als Download ist das Album bereits erhältlich.
Celer is an established name in electronic ambient, and a prominent name on my sleep playlists already. This four-disc set, with one single piece on each disc, adds confidently to the repertoire without throwing in any major surprises.
The press release states that “each piece begins with all layers playing, with minimal additional long-term structural development in order to maintain a state”, and frankly it’s difficult to either argue or add to that. Each piece is rich, and quite densely layered, with calm and tuneful top ends over soporific bass hums that can wash over you with pleasure.
The warmest is first piece “Merita”, a 35-minute concentrated sonic lullaby that pulls you gently out of time. Despite its name, “No Sleep In Medan” is certainly something you can fall asleep to, but a slightly gritter low rumble and a more plaintive slow two-chord alternation do add a sense of loneliness and melancholy.
“Nothing Will Change” has a strongly Eno-like vibe to it, again rotating the chords but with a slightly more acoustic flavour and a velvety tone to it that might or might not be connected with the use of old reel-to-reel tapes for recording. Final piece “Qarauan” adds more of a gradual rise and fall to the slowly evolving melody parts, a stepping process that feels oddly inebriating after a while, playing on the most primitive of psychological effects where rising tones feel optimistic- so there’s a certain happiness to the audio drunkenness here.
If I were looking for something to criticise, I would mention one gripe which is more environmental than artistic. The average running time of these pieces is under 40 minutes and despite being a four-disc set, the music on here could easily have fit onto two discs, with room to spare. So in a physical sense, it is a touch wasteful. And if you fell asleep whilst the first track on a disc was playing, and slept through the second piece, would it really matter?
The press release also describes the concept as “a meditation on future events”, and while it’s hard to discern where the future events lie within this sound- or indeed any events at all, an implication reinforced by the track title “Nothing Will Change”- it certainly is meditative music of the highest order.
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.
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.
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.
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.