Archive for September, 2010

I dog ear the pages
Because it is

I drink cold tea
It was waiting
For us…

I’ll spend this night
Not sleeping, it’s costly
But I could always

Apply for another credit card?

We should acquire a stack of
Them &
Play Gin!

Celer is the musical offspring of Will Long and Danielle Baquet-Long, a husband and wife whose posthumous discography now runs into the dozens. Typically their ethereal drones are composed from highly processed recordings of environmental sound or acoustic instruments such as piano, violin and flute. Their recent album on Dragon’s Eye, Dying Star, is both one of their most subdued sonically, and one of the sparsest in sonic origins, using only an analog synthesizer and a mixing board. Granted, analog synthesizers can produce a wide variety of sound, but the sound world here is remarkably consistent, a steady pitch with gently hovering overtones. Volume is generally low and events are few, a thinning or thickening of the harmonic texture and an occasional ringing emphasis in the overtones. The surface calm and relative homogeneity seems especially apt for an album entitled Dying Star.

Although the album is divided into eight tracks, there is only subtle audible differences to distinguish them in the listener’s ear. Celer often uses track boundaries for purposes other than delineating musical divisions, and the track titles read like one of the poems that have graced other albums or Celer’s blog. Track boundaries are an unusual playground for sound artists. The Hafler Trio, in its long search to challenge perception, released CDs where the track layout didn’t correspond in the slightest to the sequence of individual pieces. But I don’t think this is Celer’s motivation, which almost seems more like an acknowledgment of the essential disordered quality of the spiritual and emotional states presented by their music.

Yet despite the seeming placidity of the Dying Star’s trajectory, the album’s most poignant moment comes at the beginning of the final track. Flickers (Goodnight) is the only track that doesn’t begin in silence, but instead is crossfaded directly from its predecessor. Even more significant, its continuing drone is overlaid with the only two even mildly percussive events, aptly characterized by the flickers in the track title, coming at the very beginning of the track and echoed about forty seconds in. These two events, so quiet as to be barely suggested, and appearing only after forty minutes of quiet undulating drones, are Dying Star’s hidden treasure. Is it the dying star finally imploding, creating a brief flash all too easily overlooked? Has the listener drifted into an oblivious somnolence and heard it only in his or her dreams? Celer makes a call to the listener’s attention and imagination and thereby elevates this release to one of their best.

Dying Star is released on Dragon’s Eye and is available in their shop or from various distributors worldwide.

– Caleb Deupree

To anyone even passingly interested in drone or ambient music the name Celer has become a byword for all that’s finest within these genres. Recorded and mixed between mid 2006 and late 2007, this four-piece, hour-long collection is among the most substantial and sonically varied works within the Celer discography and arrives with a mastering treatment courtesy of 12k boss Taylor Deupree. Apparently billed as a collection of “elliptical love songs”, Panoramic Dreams Bathed In Seldomness certainly stretches the parameters of what might be intimated by the term “song”, harnessing as it does a lulling stream of conscious that takes in strings, old synthesizers, tape sounds and a host of dissolved field recordings captured by the late Danielle Baquet-Long during trips to Pakistan, India and Nepal. During the album’s first half, the tone of Celer’s music switches between the grainy somnambulance of free-flowing opener ‘Anticline Rests: Inertia Brace Yourself’ and the more studied microsound adventures of ‘Collections Of Fogs and Ladling Clarities’. By the end of this latter piece low-end tones begin to exert a melodic influence that seems to cue up the luscious extroversion of ‘Who Feels Like Me, Who Wants Like Me, Who Doubts Any Good Will Come Of This’. For this third composition the duo make a blissful, orchestral sound that drifts elegiacally over a too-short twelve minutes. Somewhere between Stars Of The Lid and William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops, this has to rank as one of Celer’s strongest short-form work to date. Finally, the album bows out with ‘How Dead This Ear Of Reason, Beneath The Backlit Sun’, a collage of loops and ever so slightly discordant drones that formulates an intoxicating clash of ear-flooding tone and fragmentary melody. Recommended.

Though the creation of new Celer material officially ended in July 2009 following Danielle Baquet-Long ‘s premature death at the age of twenty-six, Celer recordings are still being released, thanks to the stewardship of Will Long, and presumably will continue to be so for the forseeable future. Two recent releases make fine additions to the group’s considerable discography (all the more impressive given that the earliest one appeared in 2004), the first, Panoramic Dreams Bathed In Seldomness, a CD issued on the French label Basses Frequences and the other, Dwell In Possibility, a twelve-inch vinyl outing on the UK imprint Blackest Rainbow.

Recorded at home during May 2008, Dwell In Possibility credits Danielle with voice, cello, violin, piano, ocarina, field recordings, rocks, processing, and mini-cassette and Wil with piano, whistles, toy organ, mixing board, processing, and cassette tapes. As expected, however, most of those individual sounds lose their identifying character once spread across the disc’s two sides. The first of the album’s track titles, “I’ve Thought Only of Empty Shadows,” speaks to some degree for the whole as Dwell In Possibility is very much a recording of shadows and transluscence. The material seems to inhabit some distant, ethereal sphere that constantly threatens to fade from view. During the first side’s twenty minutes, an undercurrent of industrial groans and bass-thudding rumble threads itself through ambient vapours until the peaceful resound of soft organ tones brings the material into the light. Though the album does display fifteen track titles (signature Celer titles such as “Empty Streets of Accurate Reasons” and “Trespassing In Love’s Furrows”), the sides unfold as uninterrupted streams. If anything, side two seems even more spectral, with tones stretching out languorously and notions of natural time suspended. Strains of melancholy and sadness always permeate Celer’s work and Dwell In Possibility is no exception, an impression exacerbated by the titles “Embark, Hollow Heart” and especially “Say a Prayer For Me Tonight.”

Recorded in 2006-07, Panoramic Dreams Bathed In Seldomness is, we’re told, fifty-seven minutes of “vintage, elliptical love songs” created from “crudely recorded tape, primitive synthesizers, detuned strings, untrained traditional instruments, and captured urban decay.” Of course anyone familiar with the group’s work knows that a Celer love song will be anything but a standard three-minute vocal piece and, sure enough, the album’s four pieces are prototypical Celer: poetically titled short films for the ears and mind whose mini-episodes meld into one another to form seductive and immersive collages. In the opening “Anticline Rests; Inertia Brace Yourself,” hazy field recording flurries bleed into becalmed wisps of reverb-drenched ambient tones and starbursts that hang suspendedly in mid-air, after which haunting string tones subsequently drift through heavy fog. Assorted murmurings and meandering organ tones lend “Collections of Fogs and Ladling Clarities” a ghostly character, while the repeated swoop of plangent strings during the entrancing “Who Feels Like Me, Who Wants Like Me, Who Doubts Any Good Will Come of This” gives it the feel of a lamentation. At album’s end, loops shimmer and swirl mesmerically for nineteen minutes during “How Dear This Ear of Reason, Beneath the Backlit Sun.” The last two settings in particular make the Basses Frequences release essential listening for Celer devotees.

September 2010

Late one evening, about two weeks ago, i & the Beloved found ourselves high on a hillside in Cornwall • The wild moorland in this far southwest corner of England is characterised by precisely two things: vast granite slabs that put the ‘rude’ into protrude, & even bigger stone mines & chimneys, their ruins peppering the landscape with almost amusing prevalence • Caught between the twin immensities of nature & industry, it’s a beautiful, evocative place, & as we explored one particular ruin (behold), the day literally began to die around us • Across on the west side of the valley, the sun began to set, becoming a fiery bronze circle in the sky • From the time it first touched the fringes of the hilled horizon to finally being absorbed within it can only have been a few minutes, but the magic of the moment made it impossibly longer, stretching each second in order that our senses might be able to savour their passing •

Upon my return home, Celer’s latest release, Dying Star, was waiting for me, the listening experience of which takes me straight back to that Cornish hillside • It’s not just the title, or even the overt sunset shown on the cover; this is emphatically evening music, perfectly capturing the sense of things passing, closing, readying themselves for sleep • Appropriately, Will & Dani’s drones are more reserved than usual, kept at a distance by their unwavering calm & dynamic softness (Will recommends listening with the volume at 80%; do it, it works perfectly) • This aspect especially—the resolve to keep the material a hovering mezzo-piano throughout—is bold & impressive (i’m reminded of advice given to me many years ago: if you really want to get an audience’s attention, play increasingly quietly; loud music can be—& is—more doggedly ignored); there’s ever the sense that, at any moment, the music might just pass away completely, which makes the minutes we are given—&, generously, Celer give us nearly 50 of them—all the more tantalising & significant (track title “I could almost disperse” says it all) • & that is what continues to be most remarkable thing about Celer’s œuvre: the astonishing way that such radically pared-down material is nonetheless so miraculously full of life & energy, so emotional & allusive • The more one listens to their drones, the less they sound like such, seemingly filled to bursting with ebb & flow, gentle eddies & currents worrying the material at some fathomless depth; from this perspective, moments of slight but noticeable change—such as the exquisite opening of the fourth track, “On the Edges of Each Season”, with its insistent growing cluster & deep, only half-perceptible rumbling bass—become almost shockingly novel •

Dying Star simply isn’t just another Celer release; its quietly massive majesty betrays incredibly deft artistry & bespeaks a profound creative maturity • This album may just be Celer’s masterpiece •

5:4 rating: 5/5

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of reviewing a reissue of Celer’s ‘Engaged Touches’ on Home Normal – that album was, for me, something of a revelation as I had never before heard their work and was astonished by its sheer elegant beauty…

I was, then, thrilled to have before me a new album to review – ‘Dying Star’ on Dragon’s Eye Recordings.

From the outset, it’s clear that ‘Dying Star’ is an entirely different approach to ambient music than that found on ‘Engaged Touches’. The sonic palette is reduced to the most minimal of elements – a single vintage synthesiser and mixing board (so the accompanying notes tell me). Gone too is the epic musicality of ‘Engaged Touches’- which was reminiscent of Stars of the Lid’s best work- and in its place are washes of vague and almost illusory ambience – undefined and restless, creating a forever morphing, ebbing and fading field of sound.

Owing to the structural and sonic similarity of the tracks, ‘Dying Star’ creates the impression of being a single piece of music rather than an album composed of individual tracks. The album flows, one piece into the next with indistinguishable beginnings and endings, feeling like an intentional aural modelling of the imperceptible liminal boundary of night and day alluded to
in the album’s title. The results are, needless to say, mesmerising and haunting.

The apparent simplicity of the music should not be confused with a poverty of ideas, nor should it be assumed that such sparse arrangements betray a lack of musical nous. Celer have proved, over their extensive discography, that they have a rich and certain grasp of the conceptual terrain of ambient music and have explored every inch of it. ‘Dying Star’ should be taken as
but one exploratory emission from within their oeuvre rather than a definitive statement of intent.

To my mind the album isn’t as strong as some of their other output, but I feel that, somehow, “strength” isn’t what is intended to be conveyed here. The hazy ganzfeld-like experimentation delivered through the album’s eight tracks is to be consumed almost incidentally as a subtle augmentation of naturally occurring waking dreams. This is true ambient music – to be enjoyed as an integrated part of the surroundings rather than attended to with focussed intent – and in this context, you couldn’t ask for a better example of the art.

– Review by John McCaffrey for Fluid Radio

Even though I don’t dare to locate this precious 3” CDr within the recent string of posthumous Celer releases, what I can do is point out how great it is. The title track, obviously the only one here, stretches the format’s limits to the max, clocking in at just under 23 minutes. I’m not usually one for shimmering, ambient drones(capes) but this husband-and-wife duo really did it right. Using a variety of string instruments with tape sound, samples and field recordings, “All At Once Is What Eternity Is” transports the listener over bizarre glaciers of rugged landscapes before, after some 13 minutes, a sudden break washes over the composition like sudden rain. Some spoken word samples ensue before the track builds again, via floating female melodies, towards a blissful anti-climax. It is an absorbing, elevating listening experience, and as such might be discarded as somewhat high-strung by some or in some situations. But while this certainly is not a release for each and every situation, it is so emotional that it is practically beyond reach. “All At Once Is What Eternity Is” has been out for a few months but it is still available from the label.

8/10 — Jan-Arne Sohns (1 September, 2010)