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.