Release date: 1/4/10
Out of print
1 Pockets Of Wheat Parts I – VII
Soundscaping Records are very pleased to invite Celer for the label’s second release, Pockets of Wheat, a most special album to us.
The album was recorded during a three day journey driving across the US from California to Mississippi, while the musician couple spent their days at a small hotel in Northern Texas. During these three days, they realized the concept of ‘Pockets of Wheat/Exteriors’, created illustrations for their intent of the music and penned down a library of notes and structures to use. Hence, made many field recordings and string recordings with equipment brought along, while other piano pieces were recorded later on an old, unused family piano.
From their room at the back of the hotel, they saw endless stretches of wheat fields. With open windows, the couple noticed the constant sound of the wheat blowing from the wind, an almost gentle, yet persistent, crackling and fuzz, but also changed constantly. Creating music in their original form, drawing on feelings of togetherness, intimacy, and the expansiveness surrounding them, with the ever-changing landscape, the concept of ‘Pockets of Wheat/Exteriors’ was perceived. With associations to the ghost of Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows, in entirety founded in nature, perceptions arose through constant interpretation of the sounds of nature; aggression, subtlety, intimacy, and distance.
Roughly five hours of recordings of cello, violin, piano, bells, crickets, and wind were then applied the idea of an ‘always changing but always the same’ idea to it. Splicing the recordings to about hundred 5-10 second tape loops, the loops were then played back from laptops and repeated in arbitrarily selected order by the two musicians without predetermined order. As such, the movements of the wheat in the fields by the winds were mimicked: always similar, but constantly changing.
The enclosed recording contains 7 movements, though they are strung together not to break the continuity. The several layers found within the recording are not always discernible, but are still there, just more subtle, as is the case with details in nature. Nature’s presence is also an imperative, though not the sole inspiration, but in the end the music of Celer in Pockets of Wheat expresses purely their feelings, identity and the atmosphere surrounding these moments, and in keeping with a continuous recording, captures the essence of what is heard in our daily lives, essentially one singular thing: sound.
The duo recorded the raw material for Pockets of Wheat over the course of a three-day drive in January 2007 from California to Mississippi, with the married couple staying at a small hotel in Northern Texas during the trip. The concept for the album material came into focus as they gazed upon endless vistas of wheat fields from their hotel window and absorbed the soft rumble of the wheat blowing in the wind. Field recordings were gathered, and strings and piano were recorded too until five hours of cello, violin, piano, bells, crickets, and wind sounds were available, ready for manipulation. The duo next spliced the recordings into a hundred five-to-ten-second tape loops, which were programmed to be played through their laptops in no determined order. Though the material is described as being in seven parts, for all intents and purposes it unfolds as a single-movement work of continuous, hour-long duration. It’s also a quintessential Celer recording: long, organ- and synthesizer-like tones stretch out for seeming minutes on end, at times loudly declaring themselves while at others retreating into silence. And though the piece is dominated by sustained ebb and flow of shimmering tones, subtle traces of nature thread themselves into the material: in the stillness of the setting that emerges in the occasional pauses between notes, in the distant noise of traffic, and in the omnipresent undercurrent of wind flutter, for example. Though the latter introduces a subtle tint of turbulence, the work is generally as serene as the peaceful setting the duo admired from their hotel window.
The album “Pockets of Wheat” consists of a single hour-long track. There are no songs, lyrics or hooks. You learn little from the packaging except that it was recorded in a motel in North Texas, and was inspired by the vast surrounding wheat fields. I’ve listened to the record six or seven times, and always there is the undeniable image in my mind of those wheat fields, the barely perceptible changes in the waves as the wind stops and shifts. You imagine these Californians sitting in the wheat, closing their eyes and dreaming of the ocean.
Instrumental, and especially ambient music, is anathema to pop. Its pleasures are of a different element. Since the music lacks an obvious narrative, ambient recordings tend to absorb meaning from the listening environment, from the environment in which the music was created, and sometimes from the story of its creators. In the case of Celer, the ambient drone husband-and-wife duo Danielle Baquet-Long and Will Long, their recordings will forever be shadowed by Danielle’s untimely death of congenital heart failure, in 2009. If any recording should stand as a memorial to her, this one certainly is stately and elegant and smart enough to be it.
Celer released dozens of records in only a few years, and apparently there are nearly as many records in the vault. There is a clear curious and prolific energy in all of their work, and repeatedly they convey their ideas through a structure based on nature, in creatively physical ways. On 2008’s “Nacreous Clouds,” the music was synchronized with the movement of clouds. But their work would be mere modern art experimentation if it weren’t for the inherent, indescribable joy at its center. Celer is on a celestial journey imbued with private love.
Most drone music doesn’t hit you in the heart the way this does, and such a profound feeling of languorous warmth doesn’t just come from knowing the band’s story—that is, a couple transcending letters, expressing themselves in extended drone. Try to imagine them in that motel room, recording the cello, piano, violin, tambourine and vocals that went into this record, but you’ll never hear verisimilitude in this recording—all those sounds have been melted down to a whirring, stirring current of gold, glinting in late-day sun.
In interviews, Celer spoke about their songs as if they were gifts for each other. At once abstract and calm, “Pockets of Wheat” feels like heavy emotion, the way it can feel like a physical burden. But the private glimmering messages will never be decoded, which is why this recording manages to exude romance with nothing but minimal, sometimes menacing sounds.
The Milk Factory
With the untimely death of multi-instrumentist Danielle Baquet-Long in July 2009, Celer, the duo she and husband Will Long formed in 2006, came to an abrupt end. Yet, in the space of three years, the pair have recorded a considerable amount of music, and beside a number of self-releases, part of their work surfaced on a wide variety of labels, including Spekk, And/OAR, Digitalis, Smallfish and Home Normal, and releases continue to filter out.
One such new release is Pockets Of Wheat, published on Burgeoning Norwegian imprint Soundscaping, following on from last year’s excellent Air Resort by Christophe Bailleau. Recorded during a three-day drive from California to Mississippi in January 2007, and inspired by the sound of wheat gently waving through the wind in fields stretching out from the back of their hotel in rural Texas, Pockets Of Wheat contains just one hour-long sound formation built from field recordings, with Danielle playing cello, violin, piano and tambourine and providing vocals, while Will also contributes piano and tape. Culled from over five hours of recordings, the resulting piece is the fruit of intense post-processing. A slowly pulsating contemplative drone which evolves throughout, yet appears to never change, this monolithic piece is unexpectedly vivid and evocative.
It is totally impossible to identify any of the original sound sources here, so dense and drastic is the processing. The field recordings, acoustic instruments and voice have all been melted down into soft soundwaves which are then left to wax and wane throughout, with very little change in the process. This is as much an invittion to reflection as a fascinating journey through somewhat arid yet surprisingly fertile soundscapes. With very little to hang on to, the mind is left wandering, only occasionaly recalled by a slightly stronger pulse or a momentary minor change of pace in the breathing of the record.
Despite its sparse and dry nature and its restricted sonic palette, Pockets Of Wheat is a totally absorbing record which, through almost imperceptible changes, never ceases to fascinate. This is, also, a vibrant memorial piece to Danielle Baquet-Long. Celer may, as a project, have reached a premature end, but this legacy album is nothing short of breathtaking.