Though the title of Will Long’s latest Celer release references an Alan Jay Lerner-Burton Lane song from Stanley Donen’s 1951 musical Royal Wedding (and performed by Fred Astaire and Jane Powell), Long appears to be channeling someone like Debussy for the album’s four settings. With flutes forming a dominant part of the musical presentation, it’s almost impossible not to be reminded of the Impressionist composer and a representative work such as the symphonic tone poem Prélude à l’après – midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun). Such issues aside,How could you believe me when I said I loved you when you know I’ve been a liar all my life, issued on Long’s Two Acorns on vinyl and Chihei Hatakeyama’s White Paddy Mountain on CD, is a fine addition to what is now a rather staggering discography of Celer recordings.
Still, as Debussy-esque as the material might be on sonic terms, the origins for the project itself emerged far outside France’s borders, in the American southwest to be precise. It was there that a number of years ago Long undertook a road trip with his eighty-year-old uncle that saw them take in the glorious sights of sun-bleached canyon walls and billowing clouds. The two made their way across the Colorado plateau, past Monument Valley, and through Aspen in all its ski resort and celebrity mansion glory before ending the trip near Ouray.
Years later, when Long copied a quartet of tape loop-based tracks sourced from electric piano and wooden flute onto sun-baked cassette tapes and a warped twelve-inch vinyl test pressing, he was struck by how much the material reminded him of that road trip and what he’d left behind in moving from California to Japan. In addition, whatever imperfections there were in the playback became an analogue to the distortions in memory of the trip that had accrued over time.
Given such background, it doesn’t surprise, then, that the tone of the recording is nostalgic and plaintive. Soft orchestral swells breathe ever so gently throughout the four settings, and their loop-based design calls to mind William Basinski as much as their delicate shimmer and sparkle suggests classical Impressionism. Yes, occasional pops of static and grime do momentarily derail the musical flow (the most conspicuous example being the temporary arrestation that occurs near the end of “Acrimonious, like fiddles”), but such interference comes to seem an inextricable part of the recording’s character. It’s classic Celer, in other words, a tremulous, forty-six-minute set whose seductive lull will be familiar to long-time devotees.