In contrast to its music, the story of Celer is eventful but short and tragic. Danielle Baquet and Will Long began recording in 2005 and married in 2007, living in Huntington Beach, California. Two short years later, Danielle died tragically of congenital heart failure. And yet in her unfairly brief life, Danielle traveled, studied, taught, painted, wrote and created more art than most of us could in several long lifetimes. In its first two years alone, Celer released a mind-boggling twenty-two pieces. Since Danielle’s passing, her talented partner, now residing in Tokyo, has continued to release previously unheard material recorded by the duo and oversee reissues of out-of-print and early, handmade self-releases; at the time of writing, Celer’s list of CD, CDR, cassette tape, vinyl and digital releases has climbed well beyond seventy.
Sunlir is one of Celer’s earliest recordings, originally half of a double, self-released set. The ten loops created and ”orchestrated” by the couple in 2006 each shimmer as they flow and reverberate as they ebb. And each bears a strong resemblance to the next, as the duo essay variations on a form. But each breathes deeply and they are symmetrical as starfish and like starfish, a little rough around the edges, heralding the unprecedented, consistent vibrancy of the sound they would come to make their own. Still searching but Sunlir radiates confidence. As the rain-forest is to the planet, Celer is to ambient music – its lungs.
Originally released as three, single-track mini CDRs in a hand-painted carton box, these long-form pieces show off Celer at its prime, masters of a uniquely affecting ambient music that garnered the duo a standing among critics and listeners it never relinquished. The rhythm of the ”all-inclusive” is still there but it now pulses gently under the thin skin of the temples. The drone is accordant but leavened with a nigh on undetectable atonal yeast. Levitation is indeed achieved though the only breaking points occur between tracks and even then are barely noticeable. Rather, the album is as smooth and flawless as a fresh sheet of ice. It possesses a seraphic decorum that makes you feel virtuous just by listening.
With the release of Menggayakan, Will artistically retracted his avowal that the name Celer would be retired after the duo’s remaining recorded portfolio had been made available. A brand-new single collaboration with Machinefabriek has also just been released. Menggayakan, dedicated to Danielle, is an Indonesian term that means something along the lines of ”instill with beauty and therewith strength” and was recorded in Jakarta in 2010. Punctuating the atmosphere with field recordings and broadcast samples – which feature unadulterated at irregular intervals, in contrast to the duo’s work, which as a rule subsumed them in the drone—Will Long asserts himself as a solo artist (he has previously released a handful of tracks under his own name). Midway through there is an especially funny and intimate moment which seems to creep its way right into the framework of a gamelan like a june bug. This ambient sighs and soughs deeply, too, with a recessed undertone that seems to grow darker as the album progresses. As the album draws out its exquisite, strings-drenched conclusion, you get that falling feeling, tumbling head over heels in slow motion.
Though great travelers, that big, blue stretch of Californian ocean was always reflected in the duo’s music. Now Will Long watches that same water from the other side. The unexpected shift of perspective means there is even more to anticipate.