Label: Constellation Tatsu
Catalog: PURR 0089
Release date: 2/5/18
Out of print
1 7° 10° 77° 83°
2 The First Steps Onto Their Soil
3 Hotel Mona Lisa
4 Indistinguishable From Magic
5 A Big And Strange Place
6 Volcanic Institutions
7 From Fire, Ice
9 5,000 Feet Under The Surface
10 Blending All Of The Above
11 S-shaped Isthmus
12 Magnified Pieces Of Thermodynamics
13 The Signs Are Everywhere
14 Rights Of The Idea Or A Machine
“Collaborating for the first time, Will Long and John Daniel combine their methods using tape machines, loops, and computers to score a reimagining of Peter Weir’s film and Paul Theroux’s novel “The Mosquito Coast”. Sourcing inspiration from a view of the film and book as a historical pendulum, the musicians found that these reinterpretations left them nostalgic for a different time, something that’s only partly imagined, and without the defined predictions about the life cycles of mass culture based on our limited understanding of current events.”
I have been a long-time fan of Celer’s work and am a new fan of Forest Management’s brilliant ambient sounds. On Landmarks, both come together to collaborate on a piece of work that re-imagines a soundtrack to Peter Weir’s film and Paul Theroux’s novel “The Mosquito Coast”. For those new to the artists’ works, Celer is the ambient project of Will Long who currently resides in Tokyo, Japan while Forest Management is the ambient project of John Daniel who resides in Chicago, Illinois. Both are masters of the ambient art and their combined sonic powers are featured on Landmarks. The album is fourteen tracks and features glacial, spacious moments alongside brief samples from the film.
Celer and Forest Management begin the album with “7° 10° 77° 83°”. There is a tone in here that sounds like one playing the edge of a crystal glass. It glimmers and floats through the sonic fog, drifting in and out of aural distance. The second track blends seamlessly with the first and it is entitled “The First Steps onto Their Soil”. The piece reverberates with an ominous percussion tone punctuating the sound of birds chirping. “Hotel Mona Lisa” brings an increase in volume with a stuttering drone that evokes, for me, the bustle of people in crowded areas. There is a motion to this track that is hard to explain. It is engaging and monolithic.
“Indistinguishable from Magic” begins afresh, with a quiet moment between tracks. As it elevates into the speakers, it is spacious, quiet, and careful. Meditative and floating, “Indistinguishable from Magic” feels like the heart of Landmarks, displaying Long and Daniel’s brilliance in spades. “A Big and Strange Place” is a sample that sits at the center of the album and then it blends into “Volcanic Institutions”. This track shimmers with a hesitating drone that flitters amid bright, dancing synths. “From Fire, Ice” begins with found sounds and a deep rumble. The use of panning here really places the listener into the environment. It is unsettling in all the right ways. The last minute or so of the track is almost completely silent. A brilliant move that causes the listener to pause and clean their aural pallet.
“Embra” begins the second half of this epic album with a repeated, truncated melody sitting atop synth swells. “5,000 Feet Under the Surface” is another brief sample that leads into “Blending All of the Above”. This piece is just beautiful in the way panning and speaker selection are used. It’s another very open piece with a floating drone and subtle, deep tones. “S-Shaped Isthmus” takes the exact same tones from “Blending All the Above” and adds these great fuzzy, static textures to it. Eventually, the lighter tones remain while the drone fades and the rougher tones come to the forefront. They fade as beautiful, sci-fi synth voices take over. The track really feels like a dream state or some mystical fantasy.
“Magnified Pieces of Thermodynamics” continues with a sort of thread that connects it to the prior few tracks. This track is fuller and almost more organic in a sense. The swells are dense and static laden. There is this aural fog that ungulates throughout the composition. “The Signs are Everywhere” is this great track that is another sample warning about the U.S. going to war. It’s unsettling but a brilliant placement in the album. This leads into the finale of Landmarks which is entitled “Rights of the End or a Machine”. It is the longest track on the album, spanning over ten minutes. Hypnotic and flowing, the variations in the piece are slight but meaningful. It’s a perfect finale to this beautiful record.
Celer (Will Long) and Forest Management (John Daniel) have crafted a magnificent piece of art with Landmarks. As a pseudo-soundtrack, it evokes images of civilization gone wrong using select snippets from “The Mosquito Coast” while utilizing music to evoke emotional responses. At times drifting and at other times unsettling, Landmarks brings these two masters of ambient music together and the outcome is an album that should be on top lists come the end of 2018. Landmarks will be released on February 5, 2018 on the fabulous Constellation Tatsu. Highly recommended!
This collaboration between two American ambient artists harnesses the genre’s distance from reality to magnificent effect. John Daniel, aka Forest Management, currently lives in Chicago, “the most American of American cities”. Will Long, aka Celer, lives way over in Tokyo, Japan. Thus they seem well poised to engage with their chosen theme of scoring The Mosquito Coast, a novel by Paul Theroux (yup, Louis’ dad) and later a film by Peter Weir. The story follows an obsessive father who seeks to escape the evil excesses of American consumerism by moving his family to the tropical titular coast of Honduras.
The duo’s two voices intermingle imperceptibly, and they engage with the text’s core themes with a healthy mix of adoration and scepticism. It apparently left them “nostalgic for a different time”, albeit one that’s partly imagined, which sounds to me like the defining emotion of 2018. This mix of nostalgia, despair at the current state of the world, and hope for a solution constantly manifests itself over a stunning hour of music. They yank from all manner of ambient traditions, be it the glacial ocean of Stars Of The Lid-ian tones that open the tape on ‘7° 10° 77° 83°’ or the Basinski-esque locked groove of ‘Hotel Mona Lisa’, veering into less familiar sounds with strange deep field recordings (‘From fire, ice’), plus a few interludes made of snippets from Peter Weir’s 1986 film. There isn’t necessarily any immediately apparent narrative, but The Mosquito Coast’s central conceit that you can’t beat society by leaving it (or perhaps, you can’t become God without becoming the Devil too… it’s a good book) is certainly great food for thought during Landmarks’ spellbinding running time.
Music Won’t Save You
Tra le innumerevoli collaborazioni condotte negli anni da Will Thomas Long, quella con John Daniel presenta in un certo senso i contorni dell’inevitabilità. Affinità evidenti erano state denotate dai lavori dell’artista chicagoano che incide da qualche anno sotto l’alias Forest Managementcon quelli più impalpabili ed emozionali del prolifico collega ormai da anni residente in Giappone.
“Landmarks” colma la lacuna collaborativa, presentando per la prima volta i due musicisti interagire nella ricerca di comuni punti cardinali su un’ideale mappa costellata da drone finissimi, samples ed effetti iterativi, concettualmente ispirata al romanzo di Theroux “Mosquito Coast”. Tale suggestione è tradotta in una galleria di quattordici tracce, dalla durata compresa tra oltre dieci minuti e poche decine di secondi, nella quale i due artisti condensano le visioni futuribili di un’America inquieta e tanto recondita da non essere descritta nemmeno sulle mappe geografiche.
Una mappa sonora radicalmente nuova e immaginaria creano appunto Long e Daniel lungo il corso di poco meno di un’ora del lavoro, avventuroso viaggio al rallentatore sospesi a mezz’aria su sconfinati non-luoghi fisici e mentali.
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.
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.
Raven Sings the Blues
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.
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.
A Closer Listen
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.