Format: 2CD, 2CS, 2LP
Label: Two Acorns
Release date: 1/25/19
1 (06.23.17) From the doorway of the beef noodle shop, shoes on the street in the rain, outside the karate school
2 Rains lit by neon
3 In the middle of the moving field
4 (06.26.17) Maglev at 303 km/h
5 Text me when you wake up
6 For the entirety
7 (06.24.17) Birds inside the high halls of Hangzhou, (06.23.17) Shanghai red line, metro karaoke
8-9 Prelude to obsession I & II
10 (06.26.17) Waiting in Hangzhou
11 Our dream to be strangers
Phonetic script: Xièxie
Chinese characters: 谢谢
谢谢 ( xiexie / xièxie ) is composed of these characters: 谢 (xie) , 谢 (xie)
English translation: thank you, thanks
to say | to thank | literally means ‘thanks’. ‘Thank you’ in Chinese would be xièxie nĭ (if you thank an individual), or xièxie nĭmen (to say thank you to a group of people).
– Chinese -> English Dictionary
A week before leaving, I bought a dictionary and phrasebook.
Covered in rain, during the days and even the nights, Shanghai was lit in a glow, a mist turning to a constant grey fog. Buildings lined with neon and lcd screens flashed, and from around corners and behind buildings, the night was illuminated much the same as the day. Cars separated the classes, their horns voices punctuating the streets, as pedestrians in groups loosely scattered the streets, talking and walking on speakerphone.
Standing by the metro escalators, there in the square with the overhanging trees of a park, there is construction all around. The buildings seem to be climbing into the darkness at this very moment. Leaving behind and moving forward. We seem to know everything already, our illusion of experience. I imagine taking your hand, I imagined taking your hand, and the lights in the subway flicker as we go deeper. Transit bookmarks each experience, every daydream, and in the end they’re interchangeable and indistinguishable between reality and imagination. Try to remember which is real.
To Hangzhou the maglev reached 303 km/h, the towering apartment buildings hunch under construction, passing by in blurs on the flat farmland landscape. I fell asleep, as you were dancing but to no music. The lilies on the lake nodded in the rain, dipping into the water. There was a Wal-Mart near the hotel where I won a pink bunny from a claw machine. I remember the beauty of the architecture of Hangzhou station, birds swirling around the pillars near the top, the echoes of the deep station interior, and the laughing at being lost. There at least we have each other, that memory, or that daydream.
Everything moves faster than we can control. Days are just flashes, moments are mixed up but burned on film, and all of the places and times are out of order. If it could only be us, only ours. If it was ours, if it was us. Sometimes everything goes faster than you can control and you can’t stop, much less understand where you are. I bought a dictionary and phrasebook, but “xièxie” was the only word I ever got to use.
– Will Long, January 2019
上海到處都是下雨，不論白天還至是夜晚，雨在持續不斷的灰霧之下閃閃發光。我們參觀了外灘，關於未來的一切就像這種灰霧一樣渾濁。「現在抱緊我。」她說。抑或, 是我說過的話嗎？ 汽車的喇叭聲是刺穿街道的聲音；而每當我們經過茶飲店時，我們停下來。
站在這裡的地鐵自動扶梯，或站在被公園包圍的廣場，現在它們看起來歷久常新。 我喜歡那些古舊，但我亦對嶄新的抱感興趣。 像我這樣的人都認為自己已經知道那些虛幻的經驗。 我無法理解，我無法理解自己。 我們看似不同，但我們將始終如一。 我現在想像牽著你的手，也曾想像過我牽著你的手。隨著我們走得越來越深入, 地鐵裡的燈光就閃爍不斷 。如果這些景象只能跟內裡的洞穴感配搭起來，那我就知道它不能持久，它是不能持久，是不能持久…
抽煙的男人們在街上跟我們擦身而過，而我拍了幾張一包包香煙散留於地上的照片。 這就好像我們到處尋找一家沒有服務員將頭倒在桌面上睡覺的餐廳。 我們只是在下雨的城市漫步迷失，還是只是在性愛當中感到茫然？ 樹木低垂在湖面上，它們在雨中哭泣。 但是我仍然可以在臉上感覺到雨中的薄霧，感覺到我們在雨傘外面手牽手，雙手依然保持濕潤。 所有這些瞬間中，即使你不在我身邊，但你常在我的腦海之中。 究竟, 幻像與現實之間的區別在哪裡？
杭州的磁懸浮列車的時速達到每小時303公里，它經過閃亮潮濕的跨省公路和高樓，在平坦的農田景觀中迷糊的流淌著。 你身在遙遠之地，但你如就在我身旁。 一切都比我們所能控制的走得更快。 那些日子就像是閃爍的光，那些不同的時刻混雜在一起, 但它們最終卻烙印在菲林之上; 而我們曾經擁用的地方和時間都已經失序, 已不合時宜。 如果這些只屬於我們，那就只屬於我們。 假設它曾經是屬於我們，假設它曾經是我們。 有時候一切都比你能控制的要快，你不能停下來，更不用說你能否了解你所在之處。
– translation by Edwin Lo
Xièxie is available as a 2LP edition of 300 copies, 150 silver and 150 black, a 2CD, 6 panel package edition of 500 copies, and a 2CS oversized slipcase edition of 150 copies. Mastered by Stephan Mathieu.
I started walking to work in the late fall, out of necessity.
The brakes went out in the car that I drove—had been driving since 2005, and the repairs it needed were entirely too expensive to take on for something having little to no value, and was barely being held together as it was.
During this time in our lives, what I had started calling ‘The Year of Silence,’ walking to work has not been an issue, or created much of an inconvenience for me. I used to come home on my lunch break, but at this point, it is not imperative that I do so; I can bring my lunch to work, and find some quiet part of the building to eat it in where, hopefully, no one will bother me.
We, thankfully, don’t live very far from where either my wife, or myself, work; for me, it takes roughly 15 minutes to get in the morning—sometimes a little longer on the way home.
The late fall, and into the beginning of winter, is not the best time to begin walking anywhere, really, but I found ways to make due with the drastic fluctuations in temperature—especially in the morning, before the sun rises, when it can be the most brisk.
At work, when my colleagues express concern over my walks—the length, the temperature outside, etc.—I tell them I do not mind, and that I use it as a time for ‘silent reflection.’
Depending on how I’m feeling when someone asks me what kind of music I listen to, I may tell them that I primarily listen to old John Coltrane records, rap music from the early 1990s, and ambient droning. I don’t really use my 15 minutes in the morning, then, again, in the afternoon, as a time of completely silent reflection—I have been trying to make the best of my walking time by listening to music on a second-hand iPod that, much like the car I used to drive, is barely being held together.
Sometimes it’s an album I need to focus on listening to for review purposes, and other times, it’s something simply to serve as an enjoyable soundtrack for the walk to or from work.
I’ve found that now, since we are truly in the winter of my discontent, listening to ambient droning pumping in through my headphones as I trudge through my neighborhood—especially on mornings when it has either just finished snowing, or is still snowing, creates this bizarre feeling that is both comforting, yet unsettling.
Will Long, per the very brief bio on his Bandcamp site, is ‘an American artist living in Japan’; on his personal Instagram page, you’ll find nothing but a steady stream of very dramatic, artistic photographs, taken with 35mm film; however, you will not find any information about the music he produces under the moniker Celer.
As I’ve spent the last two weeks, give or take, immersed in the sprawling new release from Long,Xièxie, which roughly translates from Chinese to English simply as ‘thanks,’ I was trying to recall how it was that I first became introduced to Long’s compositions—it turns out it was through a one-off collaborative LP he put together with the, at the time, like minded composer, Nicholas Burrage (nee Szczepanik), Here, for now, released in 2015.
That effort lead me to check out one of Long’s 2015 additional efforts, the charmingly titled How could you believe me when I loved you, when you know I’ve been a liar all my life, as well as one other release from the same year, Templehof.
As Celer, Long is overwhelmingly prolific. In roughly the last three years, he’s put out 10 releases—and not just digital efforts dumped on to Bandcamp; no, everything is given a proper physical edition as well—mostly CDs, with the occasional LP or cassette.
Xièxie is an ambitious project for Long—a double album, put together into two very distinct parts that, in a way, are structured to mirror each other; together, the record totals over 90 minutes of music, with extravagant physical editions including silver or black vinyl, along with a double CD set, or two cassettes.
With the physical products available in June (a bit of a long time to wait, I know) the digital version is made up of the anticipated individual mp3s, but what you get when you buy Xièxie also, smartly, includes seamless versions of the record—put together in two very lengthy files, leading one to believe that until the silver vinyl is spinning on my turntable, these are the intended way to listen.
Xièxie is less of an album that you simply just listen to; it’s more of an album that you experience—it has a transformative, transcendental power to it that Long pulls off effortlessly. From the moment it begins with a field recording, as the album’s true ‘first’ piece slides in underneath it then takes over, until the very last drone dissolves into the ether, you are at the mercy of Long, who is, in a sense, holding you captive, in the dense, evocative atmosphere he’s weaved together.
Everything moves faster than we can control. Days are just flashes, moments are mixed up but burned on film, and all of the places and times are out of order. If it could only be us, only ours. If it was ours, if it was us. Sometimes everything goes faster than you can control and you can’t stop, much less understand where you are.
I hesitate to say that Xièxie is a concept album, but it is a very self-contained work, with its tone and structure inspired by Long’s trip to China in 2017. He discusses this, somewhat ambiguously, on the Bandcamp page for the album, stating that before he left, he bought a phrase book and dictionary to help get around, but by the end of his travels, the only word he ever used was “xièxie.”
His reflection on the trip is quite beautiful, and haunting—much like the music that this trip wound up inspiring, and throughout Xièxie, Long does an impressive job of being able to take the evocative imagery of his travels—including the self-described rainy, foggy, glowing days and nights in Shanghai and the cacophonic rhythm of the city, to the frenetic blur of speeding to Hangzhou on a bullet train, and translate it into glacially paced, stark, and gorgeous pieces of music.
But, of course, the field recordings included at the beginning of each half to Xièxie assist with immersing you in this world. The album’s opening track, “From the doorway of the beef noodle shop, shoes on the street in the rain, outside the karate school,” is, exactly what it sounds like it would be—setting the tone that is slowly introduced underneath the sound of children shouting in unison as they begin a karate exercise and the perpetual drizzle of the rain. Aptly titled, “Rains lit by neon,” the mournful, pensive drones come rushing in and Long manages to sustain them in the small pattern with which they oscillate for over 8 minutes.
The length of these pieces on Xièxie is another thing worth discussing—as well as the patience you must have with an album like this, and the kind of “it takes as long as it’s going to take” kind of mindset Long must possess when composing the, again, aptly titled “For the entirety,” which spans 21 minutes and change, arriving at the end of the album’s first ‘side’ as it were; it’s a beyond majestic, swooning kind of piece that is, again, structured around a minimalistic pattern of changes that swirls, and swirls, and as it does, it completely envelops you.
Across Xièxie’s seven long form compositions, Long manages to craft the kind of melancholic, wondrous drones that have an almost immediate, dizzying, and visceral emotional reaction with you. He spends the album walking the line between sounds that are hopeful but bittersweet, and incredibly reflective and somber—sometimes all at once; it’s an album that is the kind of thing you can, all too easily, become lost in, and the emotional gravity tethered within these sounds needs to be heard to truly be understood.
Xièxie (Chinese: 谢谢 – English = thank you) appears to be a kind of impressionistic audio travelogue of Will Long’s sojourn in China, setting out ‘A week before leaving, I bought a dictionary and phrasebook. Covered in rain, during the days and even the nights, Shanghai was lit in a glow, a mist turning to a constant grey fog. Buildings lined with neon and lcd screens flashed, and from around corners and behind buildings, the night was illuminated much the same as the day. Cars separated the classes, their horns voices punctuating the streets, as pedestrians in groups loosely scattered the streets, talking and walking on speakerphone.’ Further reflections in dream-reality lost-in-translation mode follow, mirrored in its long-form neo-isolationist drift by Celer’s music, then pay-off: ‘I bought a dictionary and phrasebook, but “xièxie” was the only word I ever got to use.’
Xièxie – translated into English as ‘thank you, thanks’ – is a journey through China. Celer’s trip began with a dictionary and a phrasebook. Day and night, rain wept from the sky, ripped from an open wound in a leaden cloud. Shanghai was lit in ultra-bright light, a fantastic neon display, and swirling grey mists. The ground fog never mirrored the fog of insomnia, because this city never slept. Nights were just as busy, a role reversal of the working day, an upside-down city where sleep vied with activity, and the lack of light brought seedier, sludgy aspects. The bright, eye-piercing lighting, the HDTV screens, glowing like artificial suns, blocking out the inky darkness of midnight, and the 24/7 supermarkets became the nightly population, its quieter traffic the only difference between night and late afternoon.
Will Long manages to condense the atmosphere of place into extended and patient drones. Car horns blare out, and pedestrians – tourists and locals – throng the streets, standing in clumps, under fire from a spattering of cool rain. Delayed drones lie softly out of focus, smeared like a taxi’s headlights in the rain. Will stands just outside a metro station, in a square beside a nearby park, where its trees overhang, draping outwards like a leafy skirt. A construction site sits silently, sleeping for a couple of hours. The exhausting nature of travelling isn’t lost on Celer, as his tones are a little jet-lagged, doing the red-eye, staying up all night to observe the square, the street, the noodle bar (‘From the doorway of the beef noodle shop, shoes on the street in the rain, outside the karate school’), the people, and documenting it. In a sense, this is his camera, his phrasebook in which dialect, culture, and atmosphere translates into sound.
This is music of transit. It never slows down, and the drone’s tempo is deceptive. At first, it sounds like it’s in a 100m race with a snail, but that’s an illusion. The ambient music passes onto Hangzhou, rocketing past apartment buildings and open fields of farmland on the Maglev, which reaches speeds of 303 km/h. The train itself is indicative of the journey, and a metaphor for his trip. It flashed by in an instant, a singular photo shot on a single day, in a month, in a year, in a life.
Xièxie is a journey and a thank you, a music born from an appreciative heart. The dreamy loops and the long, unspooling drones have a rhythm of their own, never seeming to lose energy, never flat-lining or turning into a mere exercise. Instead, the loops gracefully unfurl, like the passing landscape, and like those fields of purity, there’s an organic tone to the music, which gives it a feeling of comfort, or sedation. This is a safe place. This is a good place. For Will, the trip was a touching experience, and you can feel that in the music, in the way it carefully and patiently unfolds, and repeats. The longer drones – some reaching up to and over ten minutes, and ‘For the entirety’ is twenty-one minutes – are suggestive of Will’s feelings. He doesn’t want that moment to end. He doesn’t want his journey to end, even as it one day must, even as seconds keep on ticking, and the train continues to hurtle along, producing barely a shudder. Likewise, Long’s ambient-dusted drones are gentle and smooth to the touch. Tender. Staying in the moment, the music marinates in itself and in its memories, as if it were in a beef noodle mixture of its own. Stay with me, the music says.
The announcer’s voice bleeds into the whirring of the train. The field recordings turn into long, outstretched echoes, becoming distant, like subway trains as they leave the station and thunder into the tunnel, leaving behind an ominous rumble emanating from the heart of its blackened mouth, but lasting for minutes at a time; sound left in freefall, eternally delayed.
‘I fell asleep, as you were dancing, but to no music. The lilies on the lake nodded in the rain, dipping into the water. There was a Wal-Mart near the hotel where I won a pink bunny from a claw machine. I remember the beauty of the architecture of Hangzhou station, birds swirling around the pillars near the top, the echoes of the deep station interior, and the laughing at being lost. There at least we have each other, that memory, or that daydream’.
The music is sweet and sensitive, and the coda, ‘Our dream to be strangers’, lightens the tone, as if it were above the clouds, with warm light pouring through the gaps in the drone, ascending in altitude. The effect is the same – we’re still passing through at speed – but the tone is different. Above all, the music is full of gratitude. It’s full of thanks.
Even so, there’s a constant sense of not wanting this time to end, even though it will, and it burns at the heart. Nothing lasts forever, and time doesn’t slow down. It only increases its pace. The adventure’s over before you know it, and the flight home is boarding. Xièxie was the only word he ever got to use.
We’ve covered a number of releases from Will Long, more commonly known as Celer, but Xièxie is likely one of his most pure explorations of his unique fusion between field recordings and smooth ambient textures. Long, who lives in Tokyo, took to the streets Shanghai, through the rain and amid nature to deliver one of his most searingly beautiful works to date. He fluidly travels from active noodle shop to a REM cycle inducing passage without a moments notice, generously setting the mood with some of the slow, lulling cadences found in common with work by William Basinski, Max Richter or Robert Rich. But here on this very lengthy release Celer orchestrates string-like chords (In the middle of the moving field) that seem extended for days on end, giving way to reflective modulations that swirl like thin fabric suspended in water.
After every third track there are intervals of curious in-situ recordings that capture the space and time between the intonations of drone and distance. Long really understands how to captivate the listener with this investigatory pauses within the otherwise bountiful release, and looping of harmonious light and shade (For the entirety). The birds and tiered street voices, the Chinese train station announcements, the bustle of vehicles, all lend themselves into and out of this dynamic and beguiling state of consciousness in flux.
Under the moniker of Celer, American musician, writer, & photographer Will Long has released a staggering amount of material – a wide assortment of drones, soundscapes, sketchworks, and processed loops. No doubt his many followers each have their own favorites, but personally I always find his work most compelling when he creates deeply immersive on-location narratives such as Sky Limits (2014) which presented a sense of daily commuter life in urban Japan, or Two Days and One Night (2016) which wistfully retraced the steps of an elderly uncle’s tragic visit to Tunisia in the 1984.
Long’s preternatural ability to capture scenes and emotions in a kind of musical amber and then turn it into a story comes to the fore again on Xièxie, in which he takes us on a journey from Shanghai to Hangzhou on China’s high-speed rail line. Like a cinematographer who slows fast-moving action on celluloid for dramatic effect, Long turns the journey into a mesmerizing soporific reverie punctuated by scene-setting cues like the bustle of a busy station or the whir of a speeding train. To deepen the immersion, he narrates the excursion in the liner notes with all the eloquence of a novelist.
As we settle into the journey, it becomes intertwined with memory and metaphor. There is a destination stamped on our ticket, but that is only part of the story as Long takes us not only forward, but inwards as well.
Past is prologue to the arrival and the arrival is a prelude to new memorires and even deeper introspections. The trip may come to an end, but the dream goes on and on…
As author Pico Iyer once said, “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves”. By the time this album drifts to its conclusion, I felt as I had done a little of both. Xièxie nĭ, Will.
Throughout the last decade, Will Long continued handling the candle of light of that very special Celer sound even when darkness has swallowed it all. The consummation, content, and most importantly consistency of his output has remained the guiding torch in my nights as well. The Discogs page lists over 200 releases and 2019 sees already a few, on Patient Sounds Intland Avalance Recordings, but it is for his very own Two Acorns imprint that Long retains the best. The Chinese word Xièxie (谢谢), which translates to ‘thank you,’ accompanies Long on his journey to Shanghai, where memories, imagined or very real, flood all his senses with grey passing rain. The deep inner longing, regretful nostalgia, and glum melancholia permeate every soft wave in a mist of the sound, captured in fast-moving trains, alongside sad doorways, or places of hope, where waiting in vain we lastly close eyelids, and rest in a dreamless, forever remembered, but sadly invented, reflected deep sleep. “Everything moves faster than we can control. Days are just flashes, moments are mixed up but burned on film, and all of the places and times are out of order. If it could only be us, only ours. If it was ours, if it was us.” Be sure to read more words by Long on the Bandcamp release page to get a full sense of the atmosphere. The album was mastered by Stephan Mathieu with a cover design by Rutger Zuydervelt. Available as a 2×12″ silver limited edition, as well as on black vinyl, digital, and compact disc. A highly recommended meditation on the being and the past tense of all the memories to be.
It would be great if there was some simple way for casual Celer fans like myself to easily distinguish Will Long’s major statements from the ceaseless flow of minor releases, but there seem to be glaring exceptions to every system that I have attempted to devise. In the case of Xièxie, however, Long helpfully took the guesswork out of the matter, as this might be the most heavily promoted album that he has ever released. Happily, his instincts have proven to be well-founded, as Xièxie definitely ranks among the upper tier of his overwhelming oeuvre. I would probably stop short of calling it a start-to-finish masterpiece or my personal favorite Celer album, but I would be hard-pressed to think of anyone else churning out ambient/drone music as enveloping and sublimely lovely as Xièxie‘s bookends.
It is admittedly a bit redundant to mention that Xièxie (“thank you”) is an album inspired by bittersweetly beautiful memories of a specific time and place, as transforming lingering memory fragments into lush, soft-focus dreamscapes has been Will Long’s stock-in-trade since Celer’s very beginnings. However, I definitely appreciate the poetic reminiscence that Long wrote as an album description. For one, it establishes a lovely and evocative context: two lovers once took a train trip from Shanghai to Hangzhou, a period that is now distilled to a series of flickering images of neon lights, rain, birds, and blurred scenery seen through the window of speeding train. Moreover, that literary component is vital to understanding and appreciating the full scope and depth of this project: without it, it is very easy to view Celer’s oeuvre as a vast ocean of similar-sounding releases. To be sure, Long is quite good at what he does, so even a run-of-the-mill Celer album can be enjoyable, but there are a lot of relatively interchangeable albums for every landmark release. One could argue that the latter is only possible through Long’s seemingly obsessive work ethic, but one could also argue that those less exceptional moments could have simply been kept in the vault rather than released. However, that would undercut the larger vision (or at least what I imagine that vision to be): Celer is like a vast impressionist diary or novel unfolding in real-time. Some chapters are certainly more vivid and memorable than others, but they are all integral parts of the whole’s gradually unfolding arc.
Much like the work of William Basinski, most Celer albums religiously adhere to a distinctive template of simple loops repeated into infinity–the biggest difference between the two artists is primarily one of scale, as Long traffics in a kind of slow-motion, widescreen grandeur. In that respect, Xièxie is textbook Celer, as each piece is an elegiac procession of dreamlike, billowing chords that beautifully approximates massive clouds lazily rolling across a vast horizon. The tone is almost always one of sublime melancholy, but Long has proven himself to be a master at articulating different shades of that narrow emotional range by deftly manipulating lightness and density. The midsection of Xièxie is populated with one lengthy and archetypal variation of that aesthetic after another, though they are interspersed with brief interludes of field recordings made during the trip. Each substantial piece meets Celer’s usual high standard of quality, but the subtle divergences from the formula that open and close the album stand out as the most compelling and distinctive pieces. In the case of the opening “Rains Lit By Neon,” Long simply allows the field recordings and his music to bleed together so that his heavenly chord swells slowly fade into a collage of street sounds. It seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but it very effectively creates an illusion of added depth.
The twist is similarly minimal and effective on closing “Our Dream to be Strangers,” as the central theme sounds like a fragment snatched from an especially majestic bit of synth-centric ’70s space music or prog. It still ultimately sounds a hell of a lot like a Celer piece though, as the loop seems to leave a lingering and hazy vapor trail that obscures it more and more with each repetition. The moral here is that it does not take much innovation at all to make a Celer song stand out from the pack. Of the two excursions, however, I am most fascinated by the artful collage of field recordings overlapping those first few minutes of “Rains Lit By Neon,” as I do not understand why Long does not make that a recurring, defining trait of his work. Given that he is an expat living in Japan, his field recordings certainly seem unique and interesting to me as a listener. Also, from an artistic standpoint, it seems like Celer’s entire aesthetic is an abstract evocation of specific places and moments. As such, it would make perfect thematic sense to include the actual sounds of those places for added texture and enigmatic meaning. Goddamn it–now it sounds like I am complaining about an album that I genuinely enjoy: the important thing here is that Xièxie is an excellent album. Its flashes of greater inspiration unavoidably remind me that Long is a visionary artist who too often disguises himself as a solid ambient composer, but I am damn grateful that those flashes of inspiration exist.
‘Xiexie’ is a Chinese word meaning ‘thank you, thanks’. When Will Long went to China he bought a dictionary but in the end, only used this word. These two CDs reflect something of that trip to China, using four field recordings as starting points. So the first CD opens with some street sounds and people talking but then slowly, over the course of two minutes moves from fading out these street sounds and the drones then move in and slowly, as ever with Celer, transform from one thing to the next. Music that is like cascading waves breaking on the beach, but all in slow motion. In ‘Rains Lit By noon’ (disc one, second track) there is a pleasant mild distortion to be noticed but the piece ends near silence before going into ‘In The Middle Of The Moving Field’, which the kind of Celer you know best, flowing beautifully and right at the end the next field recordings come in and that’s only a brief fragment of a train at 303 Km/h (you could have fooled me) and two more lengthy drone pieces. Throughout it seemed to me that the pieces on the second disc were a bit more ‘distorted’; you have to count in that in the quiet world of Celer anything ‘less quiet’ may count as a bit distortion. There is of course not really ‘noise’ on this record, far from it; it just is a little something different, and occasionally at that, that is going on here, such as in the closing track ‘Our Dream To Be Strangers’. That makes that this Celer is a bit different from many of his other works, and while not a radical break with the old ‘Celer’, for me at least quite a surprise. Also available on 2LP!
A Strangely Isolated Place
Celer’s latest album, Xièxie, is a daunting undertaking at first glance. Not only does it read like a travel diary, but in-between the ten-plus minute tracks are interludes, sound recordings that narrate the beautiful textures that bookend each glimpse into Will Long’s trip to China.
It’s a tale of juxtaposing sounds that come together as a sublime narrative of travel. Field recordings form intros – instead of becoming part of the main tracks (as you’d likely expect from an album like this) – but thats the point. Upon each moment of significance, Will takes you elsewhere, painting a glimpse of voyeurism and scattered, slow motion activity. Drawn-out loops of dreams from a window turn into water paintings and a pensive, dystopian backdrop.
Simple and refined, this will become my perfect recommendation for anyone looking for the sharp point of emotive ambient music – it’s all here: narrative, escapism, texture, story and reflection. One to get lost in.
Früher war nicht alles besser. Gegen den Wunsch von Künstler*innen, Neues zu machen, ihre eigene Stimme zu finden, spricht wenig. Viel sogar dafür. Innovationen in der Musik halten selbige am Leben und in Spannung. Doch es spricht auch einiges dafür, ab und zu Halt zu machen, sich umzuschauen, was es denn da so gibt und wie das überhaupt ist. Denn die Ersten sind nicht immer die Besten bzw. nicht immer die einzig Guten. Beispiel Ambient-Techno mit Field-Recording-Samples. Viel Käse vorhanden, wenig Herausragendes. Das 1997 veröffentlichte Album »Substrata« von Biosphere ist wohl eines der allerpositivsten Beispiele. Es klingt altbacken, aber heute hält ja so gut wie jede*r sein Richtmikro aus dem Fenster und wirft die Ergebnisse ins Netz. Selten hat man als außenstehende Person einen Mehrwert. Viel zu oft fehlt zum Beispiel das musikalische Etwas – wie auch immer das aussieht –, welches das Interesse hält. Will Long alias Celer (Ex von Danielle Marie Baquet alias Chubby Wolf) ist einer dieser Ambient-Musiker*, der massenhaft Alben veröffentlicht, jedoch hie und da mit seiner Arbeit ins Schwarze trifft. So wie auf dem neuen, von einem Aufenthalt in China inspirierten »Xièxie« (heißt Dankeschön auf Chinesisch). Nicht nur versucht Long, die Stimmung der Umgebung einzufangen und als Inspiration im Booklet anzugeben. Er benutzt gefundene Geräusche, wie z. B. den Losfahrsound der Berliner U-Bahn auf dem Album »Tempelhof«, und baut diese in einen absolut hörbaren Track ein, lässt sie in seine Musik einfließen. Wie auf genanntem »Substrata«, nur ohne dessen begleitende Dub-Sounds, die dem Material einen gewissen Schwung verleihen, erwarten einen äußerst stimmungsvolle, zum Teil heftige Drones, die auch mal wie die Loops von William Basinski durch die Wiederholung von Themen über eine langen Zeitraum ihre Intensität erzeugen. Die verregnete, neblige Stimmung Shanghais ist zu erahnen, lässt man den absolut kalten, monotonen 20-minütigen Höhepunkt »For The Entirety« auf sich wirken (vgl. »Melancholia« von Basinksi). Celer macht hier wirklich nichts bahnbrechend Neues, vor allem nicht in Anbetracht seiner eigenen Diskographie, aber die Art, wie er es tut, macht ihn hörenswert. (Gemastert vom Meister Stephan Mathieu.)
L’ultimo capitolo della sterminata discografia di Will Long a.k.a. Celer, destinato a essere il penultimo nel giro di pochi minuti. La cosa davvero sorprendente e che, a dispetto della prolifica discografia, fatta di CDr, downloads, qualche CD e pochi vinili, la produzione di Celer e sempre di impareggiabile livello creativo e certamente questo Xiexie non fa eccezione. Ambient DOC, droni suggestivi, layers elettronici mishiati a field recordings, continuum elettroacustici.
Impressioni di pioggia, autunni mistici, nebbie impertinenti, estati estatiche; l’ascoltatore – protagonista di questo catalizzatore – aggiunga il propio se, poiche assai poco contano le indicazioni fornite o le note di copertina. La musica di Celer, evocativa e arcana, e pronta ad avviluppare il vostro inconscio, sottolineare i desideri, accarezzare le memorie. Xiexie (grazie, grazie tante in cinese) si presenta come un’uscita importante, testimone di un viaggo e un contatto con la Cina contemporanea, disponibile perfino in vinile e, come del resto tutti gil altri album dei Celer, e semplicemente, disarmantemente ammaliante, ipnotico e magnetico: un compagno per serate solitarie e meditative, un complice del profondo silenzio. Un album da ascoltare e da consultare, assolutamente da avere.
Tokyo based ambient musician Will Long’s 100th release as Celer was inspired by a trip to China – and from the opening recordings of traffic, bicycle bells, whistles, horns and overheard conversations Xiexie (Thank You in Chinese) conveys the feeling of the attentive traveller: overwhelmed, watchful and far from home. The intriguing track titles and the accompanying train-interior imagery (made by Machinefabriek’s Rutger Zuydervelt) effortlessly pull together the disparate threads of a journey, invoking the peace that comes from being disconnected from your surroundings, moving at high speed yet feeling suspended in time.
For the most part, Xiexie plays out in a seamless continuation of sounds that shift slowly in a liminal flow. However midway through, “For The Entirety” pulls you out of the sedation induced by the brown noise hypnotherapy of the previous tracks and into a more traditional assembly of string timbres and loops that feels spacious and cinematic.
The more musical pieces – “Rains Lit By Neon”, “In The Middle Of The Moving Field”, “For The Entirety”, “Prelude To Obsession I & II” and “Our Dream To Be Strangers” – undulate in waves that impart a feeling of being suspended in time and space. Gentle cycles of delayed tones overlap each other in loops, a simplicity that belies the density of sound and movement. In the midst of the extended, uplifting sweeps of cadence that slide in and out of focus, shorter, more finely calibrated excerpts of recordings give context and form to the shapeshifting drones; the sounds of cities and train stations, children and speaker-announcements provide a sense of place.
A favourite moment during “(06.24.17) Birds Inside The High Halls Of Hangzhou, (06.23.17) Shanghai Red Line, Metro Karaoke” involves the increasing pitch of an accelerating metro train, inducing a momentary feeling of unease, paired with the rhythmic beat of a tambourine made by a pair of disabled beggers wandering the aisles of the carriage. Celer’s assuredness of tone and execution achieves a delicate balance of genius loci, human feeling and musicality.
The cover image immediately brought back memories of my own trip to China in 2016. I think I made an almost identical picture in that high-speed train. And, like Will Long, we also bought a dictionary and phrasebook but never got beyond that word for ‘thank you’: Xièxie (谢谢).
Celer‘s XièXie is a double album (2LP/2CD) documenting his impressions from travelling in China in June 2017. Some of the tracks have a date and are field recordings with descriptive titles like Birds inside the high halls of Hangzhou, Shanghai Red Line, From the doorway of a beef noodle shop, or, indeed Maglev at 303km/h. Other tracks are Celer‘s distinctive loops, unhurried and intensely relaxing. There are eleven different tracks but they are mixed into two uninterrupted dreamlike journeys (the download contains two extra tracks with uncut versions of the album).
There’s a contradiction in the cover image of a train moving at 303 km/h and the slow music it contains. But looking out from a train at that speed the world seems to be moving slower, not faster.
XièXie is a recommended soundtrack for everyone that feels life is moving too fast.
Celer strikes again – this time enhancing his personal vision with field recordings from Shanghai, China. Carefully described sources of field recorded sounds makes you feel that the album is a daily journal of what the artist makes in the form of this release. It’s a very subtle journey with an enigma of ambience – although we know exactly what’s been recorded we are not sure perfectly of its texture and enhanced by the electronic minimalism of the ambient it gets to you that the sounds which are made even with the small alterations can transport the listener way beyond what’s been done to the original context of the sound source. It’s wonderful way to relax in sound – listening to this album – a self-reflective mode should be switched on.
This release has been out for a few months digitally already, but has a physical release date of June 7th, giving a good opportunity to look at it again.
When it comes to truly ambient works that relax and comfort, Celer- for a decade now the solo project of Will Long- has been on top of the game for a long time. We’re big fans of his work in our household- though we would probably have to promptly admit to being familiar only with the first half of works like “M1” and “Here, for now” as we use them as night-time relaxation music so consistently that we have probably now programmed ourselves in a Pavlovian fashion to fall asleep when we hear them. They are warm, lush drones that are well suited to the purpose, and while the sparseness of some of them also suggests more thoughtful, broad or lonely moods, there’s always a thread of positivity in there that can be hung on to.
And so it is with “Xièxie”. The introduction of some found sound elements, recorded around Shanghai in 2017, leads to titles which might suggest busy chaotic atmospheres- “Maglev at 303 km/h”, “Shanghai red line, metro karaoke” or the rather ambitiously monickered “From the doorway of the beef noodle shop, shoes on the street in the rain, outside the karate school”- but there is no chaos here. These elements are blended gently- and very, very lightly- into familiar long drone tones. It generally is not long before the real-world atmospherics fade away and you are drawn into long, purely synthetic drone worlds that you can lose yourself in entirely.
The twenty-one minute piece “For the entirety” is an example of Celer at his most symphonic, which is an almost absurd overstatement given how understated it is musically- but with three notes in a slow repeating cycle that changes gradually in tone and pace (without ever approaching standard musical speeds), this feels like what modern classical music has rightly and naturally evolved into. Similarly there’s a sombre and peaceful beauty to final track “Our dream to be strangers”, though I suspect I’ll try to listen to that again in the future and be asleep well before I reach that point.
Besides the 90-minute work, as a digital bonus you get two “Uncut” tracks in which the tracks are segued together without track breaks; however I may be missing something here as the transitions are mild at best, often still drops to silence, so I’m not entirely sure what this adds. Also if it’s ‘uncut’, why is it two tracks instead of one?… It’s a mystery to me and I’d welcome some clarification. But as an excuse for listening to the whole work twice in a row, it’s a bonus (albeit a confusing bonus) rather than a problem.
It’s by no means groundbreaking when compared to Celer’s previous work, but for its purpose- insofar as I see it- that is *precisely* what we want.
Obacht, hier kommt mal wieder was Neues von CELER, dem zentralen Projekt des, in jüngerer Vergangenheit unter seinem bürgerlichen Namen auch auf Deep-House-Abwegen flanierenden, Wahl-Tokyoters WILL LONG – und prinzipiell gibt es wohl nur wenige Musiker, die sich ein beherztes “mal wieder” redlicher verdient hätten als er, veröffentlicht LONG mit CELER pro Jahr für gewöhnlich doch locker bis zu einem Dutzend Alben. Im laufenden Kalenderjahr hat sich der Mann, so zeigt ein Blick auf seine discogs-Präsenz, bislang allerdings schwer zurückgehalten: zum Zeitpunkt der Niederschrift dieser Rezension werden dort gerade mal drei Alben für 2019 gelistet – und das, wo das Jahr schon wieder zur Hälfte ‘rum ist! Nun ja, es muss wohl jeder bisweilen mal ein kreatives Päuschen einlegen. Womit wir bei beim zweiten Punkt des Einleitungssatzes – “Neues” – angekommen wären. Die Frage nämlich, inwiefern angesichts von “Xièxie” im eigentlichen Sinne von etwas Neuem gesprochen werden kann, mutet nicht minder rhetorisch an als die generelle Problemstellung obsolet erscheint, ob und inwiefern bei einem Binnenvergleich von CELER-Alben überhaupt im strengeren Sinne von so etwas wie wesentlichen Unterschieden gesprochen werden kann, denn es gibt wohl nur wenige (sehr wenige!) Projekte, bei denen die Devise “Kennste eine, kennste alle” den Nagel punktgenauer auf den Kopf trifft als bei CELER. Um also nicht lange drumherumzureden: Die vorliegende Veröffentlichung weicht von diesem Kurs nicht um ein Jota ab. Wer also schon mal ein bisschen was von CELER gehört hat, muss seine Fantasie nicht einmal minimal anstrengen, nein: er kann sie im Grunde genommen im Stand-By-Modus belassen, um bereits ziemlich konkret zu ahnen, was ihn auf “Xièxie” erwartet.
Geloopte Drones sind geloopte Drones sind geloopte Drones. Und bleiben geloopte Drones. Bis in alle Ewigkeit. Das heißt mindestens so lange, wie WILL LONG mit CELER Alben veröffentlicht. Freilich: Das Ambient-Genre, dem das Projekt verpflichtet ist, hat Varianzarmut und Monotonie zum konstitutiven Stilmittel erkoren, nichtsdestoweniger sind die rigide Beharrlichkeit und Konsequenz, mit der der Mann sein einmal umrissenes Konzept beibehält, selbst in dieser musikalischen Nische einigermaßen beispiellos. Womit nun freilich keineswegs gesagt sein soll, “Xièxie” sei irgendwie nicht gelungen – Gott bewahre, durchaus im Gegenteil: einmal mehr umbrummen den Hörer warme, mit dezenten Field-Recordings zurückhaltend abgeschmeckte, fluffige Drones in Endlosschleife und überführen ihn so über kurz oder lang entweder in einen zünftigen kontemplativen Trancezustand oder gleich zuverlässig ins Land der Träume. Will heißen: Einmal mehr ein Album, das den perfekten Soundtrack liefert für a) Lektüre oder Schreibtischarbeit, b) Meditation oder c) Tiefschlaf. Musik wie eine nagelneue Daunendecke – hier ist alles warm, flauschig, weich und kuschelig, und es gibt nicht nur keinerlei Ecken und Kanten, nein: schon der Gedanke daran erscheint während des Hörens nachgerade absurd. Mit anderen Worten: WILL LONG macht, was er – von 2005 bis 2009 mit tatkräftiger Unterstützung seiner verstorbenen Frau DANIELLE BAQUET aka CHUBBY WOLF und seitdem solo – mit CELER eben schon immer gemacht hat. Und das macht er gut: Ambient im radikalsten und kompromisslosesten denkbaren Sinne – hier ist die totale Entspannung über die gesamte Range garantiert: von Alpha- über Theta- bis Delta-Wellen-Bereich.
Noch ein paar Worte zum programmatischen Hintergrund: LONG verarbeitet auf dem, als 2LP, 2CD, 2CS und Download erschienenen, Album Eindrücke von Aufenthalten und Reisen innerhalb Chinas; so ist auch der Titel, “Xièxie”, die phonetische Schreibweise des chinesischen Wortes für “Dankeschön” – auf dem Coverfoto prangt es in chinesischen Lettern auf der elektronischen Anzeige im Waggon eines Hochgeschwindigkeitszuges, der, auch darüber informiert das fragliche Display, mit bemerkenswerten 303 km/h durch die Landschaft brettert (ein krasserer Kontrast zu dem, was dem Hörer in musikalischer Hinsicht blüht, ist schlechterdings nicht denkbar). Diese charmante Reiseatmosphäre schlägt sich insbesondere in den unaufdringlich (!) eingeflochtenen Field Recordings von Straßengeräuschen, Lautsprecherdurchsagen, Passantenstimmen etc., aber auch in den gewählten Titeln nieder. Apropos Titel: Formal umfasst das Album 11 Tracks, deren Laufzeit sich zwischen 44 Sekunden und knapp 22 Minuten bewegt, de facto gleicht das Hörerlebnis aber eher einem kontinuierlichen Von-Track-zu-Track-Gleiten und so erscheint es nur konsequent, dass der Download als Bonus noch eine Uncut-Version des Album umfasst, die rätselhafterweise auf zwei Portionen aufgeteilt wurde, anstatt sie konsequenterweise gleich in einem durchgehenden Stück zu servieren – das verstehe, wer will, aber wurscht. Fazit: Wer CELER auf der Höhe seiner Ambient-Schaffenskraft erleben will und Musik liebt, die sich anfühlt wie eine Badewanne voll warmem Wasser, das mit “Kneipp’s Glücklicher Auszeit” versetzt wurde, der sei hiermit ultimativ zur Anschaffung angehalten.
Celer is Will Long. Xièxie is an album of experiences from time spent in China, captured via field recordings and soundscapes produced in a studio environment. Xièxie can be translated as thank you in Chinese and presumably Celer wishes to say thank you for his experiences in China. Musically, Xièxie is an album of flowing ambient compositions that are relaxing, but at the same time demand close listening. There are short and long pieces, which capture different moods, thoughts and experiences. (06.23.17) From The Doorway Of The Beef Noodle Shop, Shoes On The Street In The Rain, Outside The Karate School is a deeply atmospheric field recording based piece, whilst Rains Lit By Neon is a slightly disconcerting synth led number and Prelude To Obsession I sees life sounds give way to shape changing melodies. Xièxie lets us experience China through the eyes and ears of Celer.
US born and now Tokyo-based electronic producer Will Long seemingly never stops working, something evidenced by his massive backcatalogue of releases under the alias Celer, his solo project since the untimely passing of his partner Danielle Baquet-Long in 2009. Indeed, this latest album ‘Xièxie’ (Mandarin for ‘thank you’) on his own Two Acorns label represents just one of three longplayers that he’s released so far during 2019.
Inspired by a recent trip to Shanghai and Hangzhou, the eleven tracks collected here offer up a sonic travelogue that sees Long merging urban field recordings from the aforementioned cities and voyages with drone-centred electronic ambience. At a sprawling 95 minutes in length (with one of the tracks coming in at 21 minutes), it’s an immersive experience that’s best taken in a single listening session, conjuring the sense of constant motion and activity as the cityscapes blur past.
‘(06.23.17) From The Doorway Of The Beef Noodle Shop, Shoes On The Street In The Rain, Outside The Karate School’ vividly evokes the random sonic encounters listed in the title as the distant sound of street conversations gives way to the hum of motorscooters and bicycle bells, the scooter horns exhibiting a Doppler effect as they pass by against the background sound of rain, only to suddenly be replaced by the chanting of Karate students practising their katas.
As things segue seamlessly into ‘Rains Lit By Neon’, the warm background layers of ambient electronics begin to swell more towards the foreground, a hint of mournful horn texture playing amidst the gently cycling harmonics as the sampled elements momentarily depart.
Elsewhere, ‘(06.26.17) Maglev at 303 km/h’ sees the subsonic interior rumble of the high-speed train linking Shanghai and Hangzhou providing a field-recorded segue that’s equally ominous and lulling, before the 21 minute long ‘For The Entirety’ offers up this album’s centrepiece as majestic layers of shifting synth harmonics intertwine with the background sound of gently twinkling keyboards, conjuring a minimalistic ambient suite that focuses on developing a sense of blissful contemplation rather than really changing over its expansive running length. In many ways it’s emblematic of what Long is aiming for here – the equivalent of sonic slow food that’s best taken in a single unhurried session.
Xièxie (“merci” en chinois) est un disque de voyage : de celui effectué par Will Long en Chine en 2017. Les images et les sonorités gracieuses abondent au cœur de cette ambient profonde, agrémentée de field recordings urbains, conférant à l’œuvre une valeur documentaire. Xièxie s’ouvre d’ailleurs par des sons de conversation enregistrés sur place, un procédé de captation que l’on retrouve sur “(06.26.17) Maglev at 303 Km/h”, “(06.24.17) Birds inside the high Halls of Hangzhou, (06.23.17) Shanghai red Line, Metro Karaoke” et “(06.26.17) Waiting in Hangzhou”. Ces bruits ambiants sont utilisés avec parcimonie, mais parviennent idéalement à nous plonger de façon délicate dans la réalité quotidienne de ce pays lointain et exotique.
Néanmoins, l’essentiel est ailleurs. Long est établi depuis plusieurs années au Japon, d’où il dirige le label Two Acorns. L’âme asiatique l’impacte fondamentalement, tant la recherche de l’épure est criante. Xièxie confirme le talent de l’Américain pour tisser des atmosphères éthérées, relaxantes et oniriques. C’est beau à en pleurer et pourtant, c’est si simple ! Se servant toujours de boucles, il nous invite à la contemplation. Ainsi, les nappes succèdent aux drones selon un schéma totalement répétitif. Les morceaux conservent la même trame tout au long de leur exécution, sans changement notable, l’aspect méditatif est pleinement assumé. Cet opus reste donc dans la lignée du concept Celer : une musique calme et hypnotique, non événementielle. Le musicien reste l’un des meilleurs représentants de cette mouvance minimaliste de l’ambient, au même titre que Hakobune, Ex Confusion, Rafael Anton Irisarri ou Kyle Bobby Dunn. Une pureté certaine émerge de son art et il nous inspire avec élégance certaines émotions, telles que la nostalgie (“Prelude to Obsession I”). On notera que Xièxie a été masterisé par l’excellent Stephan Mathieu et que deux titres bonus sont disponibles en téléchargement, des versions “uncut” de l’album entier. Une véritable réussite.
Il titolo del nuovo lavoro di Will Long, ultimo di una folta serie di produzioni a nome Celer, significa “grazie” in cinese: “Xièxie”, appena uscito per Two Acorns Records. I suoi field recordings, questa volta, ci fanno viaggiare da Shanghai all’aeroporto di Hangzhou, passando nel treno supersonico chiamato “Maglev” (che può raggiungere i 600 km/h). Il tutto avvolto da drone music, prolungata in maniera estrema, senza aggiungere nulla al loop scelto, neppure minimale. L’esperienza intera dura quasi 90 minuti ed è distribuita in 2 LP. Diverse tracce, come titolo hanno la descrizione dell’ambiente registrato e la data. “(06.23.17) From the doorway of the beef noodle shop, shoes on the street in the rain, outside the karate school” apre il disco, tra voci, campanelli di biciclette, clacson vari, e un pad statico ed avvolgente, tendente al drammatico. Sembra che stia per accadere qualcosa di tragico, ma il pad è tutto ciò in cui consiste la seconda traccia, “Rains lit by neon”, in tonalità minore. Si passa al maggiore con “In the middle of the moving field”, ma con un suono più grave, profondo e vibrante. Dopo dieci minuti, udiamo dei passi, ed ecco l’agognato viaggio in treno, in “(06.26.17) Maglev at 303 km/h”, un rapido passaggio di 44 secondi. Dopo la veloce corsa, una raccomandazione: “Text me when you wake up”. Qui, il campo è riempito da suoni ariosi e cristallini, e Celer lascia fluire l’intero ciclo di vita del suono, in maniera circolare. In chiusura al “Disc one”, un loop vagante costituisce i 21 minuti di “For the entirety”, che per effetto della reiterazione trascende. Il “Disc two” ci fa ripartire con un secondo viaggio: “(06.24.17) Birds inside the high halls of Hangzhou, (06.21.17), Shanghai red line, metro karaoke”. Gli annunci in stazione ci fanno attendere la metropolitana, dove entriamo, così possiamo apprezzare l’accelerazione, mentre udiamo in carrozza un vociare di bambini e un tamburino percosso in modo maldestro. Il tamburino ci collega a “Prelude to obsession I”, un altro drone insistente, che in “Prelude to obsession II” subisce solo una minimale variazione, quasi impercettibile ascoltando tutto di fila. Giungiamo in aeroporto con “(06.26.17) Waiting in Hangzhou”, tra i passeggeri in movimento, ma restiamo solo un minuto, per terminare con l’ultimo quarto d’ora di drone: “Our dream to be strangers”. L’ambientazione sembra riconciliarsi con il mondo, e tutto il doppio disco appare come un’osservazione meditativa ed estatica della realtà circostante, per la quale Will Long si sente di essere grato, di dire xièxie.
Het is lang geleden dat ik iets van het Amerikaanse project Celer heb aangeschaft. Niet dat het slecht is wat er uitgebracht wordt, maar ik vond het allemaal een beetje meer van hetzelfde. Het project start omstreeks 2006 met Will Long en diens vrouw Danielle Baquet-Long (Chubby Wolf). Die laatste overlijdt bijna 10 jaar geleden plotseling aan hartfalen op 26-jarige leeftijd. De muziek van Celer, die steevast ergens in de ambienthoek zit, is altijd van een zekere melancholische aard en dat is er in de loop der jaren op begrijpelijker wijze niet vrolijker op geworden. De output is gigantisch en veel ervan van hoog niveau. Inmiddels woont Will Long in Tokio en brengt vanuit daar zijn nieuwe dubbelalbum Xièxie, in het Chinees 谢谢, hetgeen “bedankt” betekent. Hoewel de muziek hierop weer aansluit op eerdere werken, die ik wellicht ten onrechte links heb laten liggen, raakt deze me meer dan ooit. De muziek is één stroom aan droefgeestig maar uitgebalanceerd warm geluid. Het is een mengelmoes van ambient, drones, tapes, elektronische geluiden en met name op de tweede schijf ook veldopnames, die steeds heel subtiel van karakter veranderen. De muziek doet soms bijna neoklassiek aan, maar dat is meer door de flow dan de daadwerkelijke muziek. Tijdens het afspelen van de muziek krijg ik ook geen letter op het spreekwoordelijke papier, zo intens, meeslepend, narcotiserend, overdonderend mooi en tot de verbeelding sprekend is dit alles. Muziek die geschikt is voor de fans van Fennesz, Machinefabriek, Kyle Bobby Dunn, Olan Mill, A Winged Victroy For The Sullen, Ian Hawgood enThe Caretaker. Als je er maar één van Celer zou mogen uitkiezen, neem dan deze, want dit is zijn magnum opus.
Will Long bringt Souveniers aus China mit, Klang gewordene Eindrucke und Erinnerungen aus dem im Juni 2017 bereisten Shanghai und Hangzhou. Mit Motiven wie den Stimmen von Passanten, Autohupen, Regen, der Bullet-Train-Verbingdung zwischen den beiden Stadten, Bahnhofsdurchsagen, Stimmengewirr, Vogeln, die chinesisch zwitschern, Karaoke… Aber homoopathisch verdunnt ins Unmessbare und Unhorbare. Denn so wie die Stadte im Kameraauge eingetaucht sind in Dunst und Regengrau, so tagtraumt die Erinnerung in einem weich gefilterten Soundscape, auf sanft atmenschaukeinden Drohnwellen. Selbst als Projektil eines Hochgeschwindigkeitszugs mit uber 300 km/h schaukeit man wie eine Daunenfeder. Das Chinesische verschwimmt schnell zu bloben Ingredienzen und verschwindet hinter dem Horizont. Als ware das Basesmaterial nur ein sublimer Mythos. Fur das Wiederganzbeischsein des Bewusstseins genugt Long das sanfte immersoweiter ozeanisch atmender Schwingungen. Oder der synasthetische Nachgeschmack von Regen bei Tages- oder bei Neonlicht. Celers Bedurfnis nach Ruhe und Ausgeglichenheit ist um ein Vielfaches grober als ganz China. Als Scape kennt er nur die Welle, die erstmals bei ‘For the entirety’ ihre gleichformige sonore Schwingung mit einem Hauch von orgeinder Feierlichkeit weitet. Aber vielleicht ist auch das nur die Illusion eines Eingelullten. Nach nochmal kurzen Klangsouveniers schwingt auch die zweite Halfte als meditative Mobiusschleife oder in sich kreisende Ouroboros. Das ‘Prelude to obsession’ steigt nach 23:48 in Hangzhou um zu ‘Our dream to be strangers’ (15:25), bei dem die Welle wieder verunklart zu einem drohnenden Orgein und im Wind verwehenden glockigen Lauten. ‘Text me when you wake up’ Soll ich dann schreiben, dass Schlafsterne wie Aufputschmittel wirken im Vergleich mit Celers Drohnwellen-Lullaby? Oder dass im Gegenteil selbst Esoterikmuffel dabei eine Bewusstseinserweiterung erfahren?
Artiesten die in de weer zijn met field recordings zoeken ofwel de (schijnbare) stilte van de natuur of zoeken integendeel de drukte van de stad op. En hoewel beide vormen een verrassend eindresultaat kunnen opleveren, blijft het geluid van de grote stad nog steeds het meest tot mijn verbeelding spreken. Met onze denkbeeldige rugzak, in dit geval een koptelefoon, trekken we naar de grootste stad in China: Shanghai. Met een populatie van ruim 20 miljoen mensen verspreid over een oppervlakte 6340,5 km² zijn we er vrij gerust in dat onze klankentapper het een en ander zal kunnen registreren. De kans om in dit omvangrijke gebied te verdwalen lijkt ons vrij groot,waardoor een gids geen overbodige luxe zal zijn. Die gids vinden we in de persoon van Will Long, in muzikale kringen gekend onder het pseudoniem Celer. Long is een Amerikaan die tegenwoordig in Tokyo woont, en naast muzikant ook nog schrijver en fotograaf is. Samen met zijn vrouw Danielle Baquet richtte hij in 2005 Celer op. Vier jaar moest Long noodgedwongen alleen verder toen Danielle op slechts 26-jarige leeftijd overleed aan hartfalen. Long bleef niet bij de pakken zitten en ontpopte zich tot een zeer productief artiest (iets wat ook reeds het geval was in hun tijd als duo): 211 releases op 15 jaar tijd is niet niks. Vaak reageert men sceptisch tegenover artiesten die heel veel op een korte tijd uitbrengen, vaak is dit ook terecht. Uiteraard hebben wij nog niet alles van Celer kunnen beluisteren (ja, wij moeten ook zo nu en dan eens ademhalen), maar we kunnen wel stellen dat het hier een toch wel ondergewaardeerd artiest betreft die bij momenten zeer mooie dromerige ambient/field recordings op de mensheid loslaat. Maar nu staat alles dus in het teken van Shanghai. Bij aanvang leek het ons een uitdaging om de dromerige klanken waarover reeds sprake te lijmen aan het jachtige geluid van de grootstad. Celer weet hier inventief mee om te springen: enkele omgevingsgeluiden worden uit de lucht geplukt om vervolgens uit te deinen tot zweverige ambient tapijten. Het uit de lucht plukken kan je haast letterlijk nemen, maar net zo graag gunt Celer deze geluiden de vrijheid en werpt ze terug richting hemel. Bij de eerste luisterbeurten waren we toch met enige teleurstelling omtrent deze trip bevangen, het schijnbare gebrek aan afwisseling leek ons immers vrij haaks te staan op onze reisbestemming. Achteraf valt je echter de schoonheid die van deze stukken op, en ligt de sterkte van deze dubbelaar (goed voor een kleine 100 minuten rustgevende ambient klanken) net in deze contradictie. Dat het leven aan ons voorbijflitst dat kan je in een stad als Shanghai aan den lijve ondervinden. Vandaar dat Long ons ook meeneemt voor een ritje met de Maglev, de eerste en enige magneetzweeftrein ter wereld die in gebruik is. Vanaf de luchthaven in Pudong loopt de lijn tot aan het metrostation Longyang Road en doet minder dan acht minuten over dit stuk van 30 kilometer. De topsnelheid ligt rond de 430 km per uur. Hoe deze klinkt aan 303 kilometer per uur, kan u dankzij dit album zelf ontdekken. Dient u op uw budget te letten tijdens de met rasse schreden naderende vakantie? Dankzij ons heeft u alvast een goede tip voor een budgetvriendelijke uitstap. Zonder dank, maar zeg gerust Xièxie (wat zoveel betekent als dank u in het Chinees) tegen Celer.
El norteamericano Will Long aka Celer quien vive actualmente en Tokio, Japón, es un prolífico músico con una discografía de 100 discos en formatos digital y físico. Para componer “Xièxie” (gracias en chino), Long se inspiró en un viaje a China en el que captura sonidos del ambiente como bocinas, silbidos, motores de automóviles, fragmentos de conversaciones, estaciones de tren, niños y anuncios de publicidad permitan al eyente tener un contexto de un viajero e imaginar lo que Long observaba con interés y asombro. La música es cinemática y despliega interminables drones e imágenes que se mueven lentamente. Creando un contraste entre el fondo musical y el vertiginoso movimiento de las ciudades. La grabación del tren rápido a 303 km por hora de la Shanghai red line, que captura el silbido de la impresionante velocidad que alcanzan estos trenes, no se contrapone con el mar de drones y la quietud imperante en el ambient que envuelve a este álbum. Will Long nos invita una vez más a un placentero viaje que nos abre la imaginación y nos inspira con su música evocadora.
Silence and Sound
Artiste prolifique, dont la cadence des sorties est difficile à suivre, Will Long aka Celer offre avec Xièxie (« merci » en chinois) un de ses meilleurs albums, si ce n’est le meilleur.
Né d’un voyage en Chine, où il en a profité pour enregistré les sons des lieux qu’il a traversé, qui s’intègrent en mode d’interludes, Xièxie est un journal de voyage se nourrissant des impressions de l’artiste, chargées d’un onirisme éthérée.
Tout semble en apesanteur, les bruits d’ambiances eux mêmes étant habités d’un calme grouillant, enrobé d’une auréole apaisée. Le temps semble s’arrêter, porté par des nappes flottants sur des atmosphères aux frontières aquatiques.
Il suffit de fermer les yeux ou de regarder le ciel la nuit, pour ressentir les vibrations sonores d’un environnement riche en émotions, où les étoiles défient l’immensité jusqu’à nous faire décrocher de la réalité. Sublime.
Celer utilizza invece le field recordings come base di partenza per sviluppare la narrazione di un suo recente viaggio a Shangai, fra scenari urbani al contempo maestosi e spersonalizzanti, carichi di mistero e globalizzati nelle insigne luminose e nello skyline futuribile. Di qui, le registrazioni d’ambiente si dissolvono gradualmente per lasciar spazio a monocromi che ruotano su se stessi mutando impercettibilmente di tono e intensita, come se le immagini scorressero al rallentatore sul finestrino di un treno metropolitan laciato a tutta velocita. L’effetto talvolta e onirico e straniante, ma dilatato e reierato in un’ora e mezzo di ascolto non puo che perdere d’intensita, disperdendosi nell’indeterminatezza.
Xièxie is a recent eleven-track album from one man US ambient project Celer- Will Long, who now lives in Japan. The album sees him bringing together heady-to-blurring drone-work & ambient studies, with subtle and subdued use of field recordings- all making for one of this year’s genre highlights.
The release comes in several formats- a 2LP edition of 300 copies, 150 silver and 150 black, a 2CD, 6-panel package edition of 500 copies, and a 2CS oversized slipcase edition of 150 copies. And the concept of the album is based around Long’s trip to Shanghai and how he felt overwhelmed by the experience, with the release titles meaning Thank you in Chinese.
Each of the eleven tracks last between just under a minute, and twenty one minutes- and with all the tracks the feeling/ vibe of the ambient tracks are very much focused on travel- with the field recording elements really enchanting this feeling- as we get sounds from with a Shanghai train, on busy & bustling crossings, people chatter in parks, etc.
Each of the musical tracks focuses in on a particular type of ambience- so we move from warmly warped tonal drifts, through to lush and harmonic looped dwells, onto sparse, hazed and blurring simmers, through to fairly rising and bright hoovers. Each track very much brings back memories of traveling- be it the nervous apprehension of a trip, the speeding wonder of a train journey, or lulling half asleep state on an airplane.
Long really is extremely skilled and masterful at all types of ambeince, and with Xièxie he offers up yet another very compelling and replayable selection of tracks-added to this we get a neat concept/ vibe. Without doubt one of 2019’s ambient highlights.
In Celer’s Xièxie, field recordings and measured drones make up eleven cinematic, and enjoyable tracks.. The work is a kind of audio-diary, a poetic translation of the suggestions raised by crossing between places and situations, moving over different environments with different climatic conditions, with the alternation of sunsets and neon lights, awakenings and markets, nature and metropolis, flashes and fogs. Thank You.
Will Long’s early 2019 Celer release exemplifies all the qualities one might expect from someone whose discography is at this stage staggering in volume: assurance, artfulness, and poise. Yet Xièxie (in English, thanks) is also characterized by properties one would associate with the work of a burgeoning talent, someone with but a few releases to speak of: imagination and freshness, for starters. To Long’s credit, the material on this expansive set shows no sign of fatigue or exhaustion, no lessening of conviction or engagement. It’s classic Celer but also a recording that somehow manages to stand apart from its predecessors.
Issued in multiple formats (download, double-LP, double-CD, double-cassette), Xièxie could be described as a ninety-five-minute, two-part aural diary of a China visit by the Japan-based American artist, with stops in Shanghai and Hangzhou and a ride on the high-speed Maglev parts of the itinerary. The recording hews to a familiar ambient template in blending site-specific field recordings with immersive soundscapes, many of the latter pushing past the ten-minute mark (the longest, at twenty-two minutes, “For the entirety”). But the way Long sequences the tracks and effects transitions between them reflects the practice of a highly skilled craftsperson.
Details included in the titles of the four field recordings pieces provide orientation. At the outset, “(06.23.17) From the doorway of the beef noodle shop, shoes on the street in the rain, outside the karate school” locates us within a setting teeming with traffic, car horns, and voices, the faint strains of the ambient piece that follows growing more audible as the opening progresses. The repetition of gently wavering synth tones lends “Rains lit by neon” a calming, dreamlike quality that suggests mist covering the city, after which the melancholy meditation “In the middle of the moving field” perpetuates the effect even more affectingly with an entrancing loop one imagines could go on forever. The field recordings pieces often act as connecting points between the ambient ones, with the forty-four-second “(06.26.17) Maglev at 303 km/h,” for example, facilitating the transition from “In the middle of the moving field” to the softly glimmering “Text me when you wake up.” The second part formally begins with “(06.24.17) Birds inside the high halls of Hangzhou, (06.23.17) Shanghai red line, metro karaoke,” the industrial whoosh of the metro car audible amidst the babble of adult and children. Mirroring the sequencing of the opening tracks, the two-part “Prelude to obsession” follows with twenty-four luscious minutes of shimmering loops.
The seven ambient settings are quintessential Celer, each an absorbing, plaintive reverie. With incessant repetitions of descending strings and horns figures assembled into a flow that’s equally stirring, luminous, and Gas-like, “For the entirety” is perhaps the loveliest, with the ethereal closer “Our dream to be strangers” a close second. With so many releases in the Celer discography (as of this writing, Discogs lists 211 project-related releases), it’s difficult if not impossible to determine exactly where any one falls, hierarchically speaking. That said, Xièxie is undoubtedly a standout and for longtime followers of the project will very likely be regarded as indispensable.
The word 谢 谢 (Xièxie) is composed of two Chinese characters, which translate to “thank you”, perhaps a simple homage to the people the artist Will Long met on a trip from Shanghai to Hangzhou in 2017. Or perhaps Xièxie is easier to pronounce in a language that is difficult for Westerners. The project was published by Two Acorns and in this instance Long used his alias Celer. Here he sets some field recordings and measured sound drones on 11 cinematic, highly dilated and enjoyable tracks on a double CD. The work is a kind of audio-diary, a poetic translation of the suggestions raised by crossing between places and situations, moving over different environments with different climatic conditions, with the alternation of sunsets and neon lights, awakenings and markets, nature and metropolis, flashes and fogs. The set is never dissonant, but very sensitive and quietist, focusing on a distilled and sweet aesthetic rendering. Celer tries to re-sound the atmospheres of the places he passes through; however, there is always an inner melody. It seems that in specific spaces we might be able to pick out only what is already inside our heads, like being in a transfer that moves schemes of feelings and emotions from different settings – where the megastore HDTV screens can easily become something else, maybe artificial stars. The voices are recorded, not because of what they say, but because of their “exotic” intonation as musical forms. Even the muddiest sequences are set to bewitch, seduce, to transport the listener into a suspended dimension, one that is slightly magical and introverted. Every transition is deceiving, it can bring additional references, and the times are cyclical, as in a continuous production and decline, in eternal and infinite sequences. The author is there, in the place, and doesn’t compose from inside an empty space: through “real” references he can partially try to filter his private dialogue, or at least bring it under control. The reality provides the impulse, but then everything remains vague and needs further suggestion to develop into accomplished musical structures. Traveling opens other doors and Celer is unlikely to stop a musical flux made of moments translated into sounds. There is nothing left but to say thank you, a little profusely, “thank you, thank you”. These words resound as a personal mantra that reconnects us to an aestheticized daily life, made, for this, more bearable.
The Sound Projector
We have enjoyed moments of previous Celer releases, but today I’m finding Xiexie an over-long chore. Two discs of endlessly looping slow ambient drone inspired, it seems, by his travels in China. It seems to have been raining perpetually during his sojourn, even one track title remarks on the rain, and that rain has seeped into every note on the album. It’s a perpetual loop of a scene from Blade Runner. The sleeve is covered with grey tourist photos of incredible banality, and his press release notes find deep personal significance in his every gesture, no matter how trivial. Even the music aggrandises this self-centred take on life, providing a quasi-heroic soundtrack for meandering around a foreign city.
L’americano a Tokyo Will Long, proietta nel cielo opalescenti scie in lenta disgregazione. Mareggiate di tiepida malinconia in cangiante e stupita accensione graduale. Come un raggio di sole che carezza e scioglie tensioni, con gli occhi chiusi e la fronte poggiata sul freddo vetro di un finestrino d’auto in movimento. Velocità e desideri inafferrabili che tali restano, il suono di infiniti transiti, di esperienza in esperienza, senza mai fermarsi, senza mai averne reale possibilità di farlo. Restano immagini stirate, stralci di conversazioni carpite ad un incrocio, il canto dei motori, l’azzurro del cielo, notti al neon e balli di gioia senza musica in sottofondo. Il progetto Celer da una decina d’anni procede direi immutabile, a volte funziona, a volte martella i santissimi. A questo giro in doppio vinile, bellezza tremolante a profusione. Dal cinese, nella traduzione in inglese, “Xièxie”, vuol dir grazie.
“Xèixie” στα Κινέζικα σημαίνει «ευχαριστώ» και είναι ο τίτλος που διάλεξε ο Αμερικάνος συνθέτης ηλεκτρονικής Will Long ή, καλλιτεχνικώς, Celer, για τη νέα του δουλειά. Στο γνωστό ύφος όπου κυριαρχεί η μίκρο – μίνιμαλ σε μια ατελείωτη ελικοειδή εξέλιξη από συνεχή drones- ο Long ενσωματώνει field recordings από τους δρόμους της Σαγκάης και της Χανγκτσόου, αποτυπώνει -σε δυο δίσκους- το σάουντρακ του σύγχρονου Άπω-Ανατολικού άστεως μέσα από φανταστικές ήχο-μουσικές εικόνες: η βροχή, τα αυτοκίνητα, το τσίριγμα των εκατομμυρίων νέον, ο θόρυβος των Mall-Mart, οι σειρήνες των πλοίων, το σφύριγμα του τραίνου υψηλής ταχύτητας.
“A night so quiet that all you can hear is your heartbeat”
Celer has always been the most impressive mastermind of drone music around, consistently unveiling new forms of intimacy that are impossible for any other artist in the niche community to capture. And while he humbly boasts a back catalog of hundreds of projects, everything seems to trace back to Xièxie. This 2019 record falls under the category of the musician’s series of abstract love stories, and its soundscape-style anecdotes are prone to progressively shifting into many different emotions, all of them stronger than any conventional song structure or lyric could communicate. Whether they take the form of nervous wavering field recordings or streamlined drone plateaus, the seven ambient compositions and their four journalistic postcards of wanderlust outline the quiet solitude of city life as well as subsequently filling in the passing thoughts that are experienced in the midst of public transportation to and from this torn existence.
It feels as though Celer is harnessing some invisible energy that is with every human being throughout every second of our lives, with Xièxie playing the part of a monumental conduit that weaves this emotion into sound. Once you have heard these impeccably soft yet incredibly profound pieces, they will be a part of you forever whether you’re aware of it or not, swimming gracefully within your soul like koi fish in a crystal clear pond. In addition, the seamless fades and repetitions of these spellbinding tape loops reward the patience of their listeners with the painstakingly gradual additions of new elements of lunar minutiae along their extended lengths. Most of all, they embody an aspect of travel, as many of Celer’s best works do. The track titles and imageries of Xièxie’s smaller parts come together to tell a story of desynchronization in the heart and in the mind, capturing contemplations of wistful homesickness and daydreams about the unfair distance between two pillars of true love. It explores the feeling of stepping aboard into a place that’s not quite aligned with the world as you previously knew it, and the symbolism of coming to an emotional standstill whilst soaring across the sky or land on one form of vehicle or another.
Xièxie exists in a vacuum, a shapeless void in which the concepts of time and space has dissolved. It fills in the blanks during the all-too-long metallic trappings of a journey by plane or train, replacing white noise and silence with something immeasurably more engaging. The darker tints of this album’s introspective delve into the theoretical yet relatable sadness of falling asleep during a long international flight, awakening in a grey manmade contraption hurtling through the night sky with nothing but physics and trust to keep you going. Remembrances of love and its multifaceted forms of expression have fallen into dead air and radio silence, the once-infinite potentials of technology whisked away in the stratosphere to be wrecked by jet lag and the mourning of two hearts now lost in uncertain airspace.
Due in part to the vastly interpretive nature of its spacey instrumentals but also to the central displays of slow enthralling beauty, Xièxie can be listened to for hours, days, and weeks on end throughout countless countries, countless airports, and countless relationships. It will resonate with them all, forming new connections with every person and place and feeling and welcoming these essences into a photographic memory relayed through music. It’s well worth spending this much time on Xièxie, letting it bond with you, letting it repeat its tales of separation and heartbreak over and over until every bond has been made and the album becomes a caring shoulder to cry on, a comfortable pillow to sleep on, and an everlasting presence of comfort that will stand by you no matter what happens. Xièxie remains in its state of immortal calm through it all, perpetually thanking its guests for the journey that they have taken with the album whether it is their first or their hundredth.
It may last over an hour and a half, but this double LP will always sound fresh in the memory and its analysis between the ideas of physical and emotional distance will always provoke deep exercises of thought. Aligned with the rotating hum of airplane engines and the rhythmic rumble of train tracks, gentle snapshots of Celer’s own travels intersperse the smooth ambient segments, rustling through railways and temples and crowds to imbue the album with yet more genuine feeling. Even in a position of total immobility such as sleep, be it in the transient sanctuary of a hotel or a permanent bed situated in what you know as home, the spirituality and romanticism of these interludes will forever be felt.
This is the best-case-scenario musical realization of every memorable moment when your heart skips a beat in worry or when you feel so overwhelmingly starstruck by love or devastated by its absence that you forget to take a breath. Whether deep in sleep, wide awake, or a meditative halfway point, Xièxie will bolster the soul and cleanse the brain of insomnia and anxiety. By incorporating wisdom from romances new and old in accordance with the eternal wish to be a part of something on a spiritual and universal level, Celer has molded the very clay of reality into ninety-five minutes of perfection.