Posts tagged review

For a while I assumed that Celer was no more, due the passing of one half of the duo, but since 2009 Will Long also uses this name as a solo vehicle. He has released his music on many labels, such as Experimedia, Glacial Movements, Spekk and now Baskaru. Here we have a new album of eleven pieces, which all have a title and not necessarily form one long piece but could also be treated as such, of music that is very ambient mixed with a bit of field recordings. From his current location, Tokyo, he offers what seems to be the entire opposite soundtrack of a busy city. Much of this sounds like processed string music, not unlike the kind of strings processed by Marsen Jules. Music that floats by, really, really gentle and calm. Not the kind of stuff I would let pass without looking out the window and think of some weather related metaphor. It fits this sunny yet cold (how would I know: I haven’t left the house all day) January day, and now, especially at the end of the afternoon,
evening starts to fall and lights begin to fade: this seems to be the perfect time of the day to start this CD and then, about an hour later, it’s most likely dark and we have moved to a variety of moods here, all from the various possibilities on offer from the string sounds (light, dark, somewhere in between, together, alone), which he mixes with very quiet field recordings from Tokyo, just faint traces it seems of someone talking, some sparse sound, the rumble of far away traffic; Tokyo has quiet areas too, I know. This is Celer the way we like it; it’s not the kind of music that Celer wouldn’t do, and that’s perhaps the downside of it. It doesn’t seem to be something ‘new’, for whatever that is worth. But perhaps that’s reviewer talk; maybe the fan wants more of the same?


From the liner notes of this release “Hill towns and empty houses pass by, but the smoothness of the train blurs the view”; and this is all Will Long needs to say to portray what he is trying to achieve with this album. With the opening pads of ‘Circle Routes’, the listener is dragged into a sea of enriching ambient with direct immediacy, with layers of folding bliss that are as hypnotic as they are drenched in solitude; where just over nine minutes of your time disappear without realisation.

Each track is interspersed by a field recordings equivalent that represents Long’s daily life in Tokyo and these can be forgiven thematically speaking, as they drift and glue the reflections of Celer’s memories, that are evocatively played out on seas of endless apparitions.

From the desperate throttles of ‘Tangent Lines’, to the threads of hope portrayed on ‘Equal Moments of Completion’, Will Long cascades a shimmering array of swells and pitfalls that simultaneously spark images from all ranges of key change and sound; that disguise the similarities and familiarities of each song, complimenting each other as an albums worth of work, embodying a concept that never fails to impress; where on some other releases this would undoubtedly be deemed as ‘samey’.

As a whole, ‘Sky Limits’ provides enough of a rich tapestry as any for a self-respecting ambient fan to lap up with gusto. As such this isn’t an album that you can just pick up and play; it takes a set mood and space in time where the listener is prepared to sit down and wholeheartedly envelop themselves in another persons story.


Is de bestemming het doel van de reis? Of is het reizen op zich al de bedoelde bestemming? Is het elders een uitgesteld thuiskomen, al dan niet met vreselijke heimwee? Of is het echte thuiskomen in eigen huis en haard de inspiratie voor het maken van nieuwe plannen voor tochten vanuit de veilige thuishaven? Is de ambient van Celer de reis of de aankomst, het vertrekpunt of misschien het thuiskomen en -zijn? Kun je in zijn nevelige en dromerige wereld overal een thuis vinden?

Will Long bouwt onder zijn artiestennaam Celer composities, die in en uit droomwerelden lijken te drijven. In zijn minimale stukken met serene modulaire structuren zit echter een diepe emotionele laag verstopt. Denk aan een landschap dat voorbijraast als je uit het raam van een trein kijkt. Dichtbij zie je een waas aan kleuren en lijnen, veraf de strakke horizon. Huizen, weilanden, windmolens. De randen van een stad doemen op, en dan: de drukte van een station. En vervolgens weer de relatieve kalmte van het platteland. Zo wisselen ook gedachten zich ondertussen af; van actuele tot mijmerende herinneringen, die in en uit elkaar geweven worden in een labyrintisch spel. Een spel dat verrassend genoeg veelal geen vertrek of aankomst kent, maar in een tussengebied danst tussen toen en dan.

Urbi et Orbi gedragen door een drone, als het spiegelende oppervlak van een meer dat niet beroerd wordt door wind; Longs ambient is als het Stars of the Lidachtige blanke doek waarop je je fantasie mag botvieren, en je beslommeringen lodderig de beslommeringen mag laten. Waarop ongrijpbaarheid van herinnering, droom en realiteit samensmelt met laag op laag aan uitgerekte landerige tonen, die Marsen Jules en ook Machinefabriek in je oproepen. Een plaat als een moment waarin alles kan en mag, en niks hoeft. Nergens en toch ergens.


In the mid-90′s, I boarded a Boeing 747 and flew across the Atlantic to Orlando, Florida. In that distant era, you could, for a couple of minutes or so, occasionally walk into the cockpit of a passenger jet on a long haul flight (accompanied by a member of the cabin crew), and say hi to the pilot and co-pilot (as you do). At 40, 000 feet, you could gaze out at the clear skies and the cloudy, vanilla scoops that concealed the sea, way below the plane. Nowadays, that’s unimaginable, as is the thought of smoking on a flight, but it really added to the enjoyment of traveling, especially when you consider that, in the 21st century, it’s becoming anything but enjoyable. Sky Limits helps to change that, reveling in the journey rather than the destination.

Celer‘s wispy, jet-lagged ambient music takes you away on its own journey. Slow to burn, Will Long’s music is heartfelt and cozy. It lets you drift away the day, a moment spent in dreamy transit. Celer’s music is high class music, no doubt about it. If you fly with him, you fly first class. In his hands, ambient music is effortless, just as it should be, and Sky Limits is another finely drawn entry. Will Long’s music is a serene window on the world, looking on at people and their emotional labyrinths. Thoughts blur – as does the countryside – as we travel through a green and pleasant land, kept guarded by nature. Sky Limits drops us off in a special place, a golden respite that we thought we’d never find.

The ambient atmosphere is slow, glacial, but in reality we’re moving at a fast pace; the high speed line takes us through cities, towns, unknown and undiscovered neighborhoods and rural communities. The music runs on a cushioned track, connecting the country and the landscape together, chaining them to the mind, body and soul. We can then link the music to a specific moment, a specific point in time and a golden experience; the place where we first heard that sound. Every time the music plays, it reminds us of how we felt, reminds us, somehow, of our own self.

As listeners, we’re on the inside, looking out at a beautiful, pristine horizon that glints and glows in the golden shadows of the sun, a fleeting moment never to be repeated. Celer makes the journey peaceful and serene, interspersing the ambient music with the everyday music of a terminal or a station, but he always brings us back to that restful place. Through “Circle Routes” and “Tangent Lines”, the music coasts along, taking with it a melancholic snapshot of an unforgettable place. You know deep in your heart that you won’t be returning anytime soon. His music has a special kind of clarity, like a lake of glass. Clarity of thought, clarity of air, clarity of mind. It stays with you. Celer’s music isn’t just beautiful. It’s also a reflection on life’s transitory state: in a second, we leave it all behind.


Hypnotising, confounding, beautiful: Chubby Wolf – Ornitheology

On 8 July—the anniversary of Danielle Baquet-Long’s death—in a rather lovely coincidence, her first posthumous release, Ornitheology, landed on my doormat • That was the standard edition, released in a typically short run of 125 copies by Digitalis—by now, of course, very sold out • Yesterday, the special edition arrived, in an even shorter run of just 21 copies, the cassette housed in a black wallet, replete with pink bow fixed to the front, all made from rather-curious-to-hold-but-very-striking-to-behold latex; designed by fashion’s latex goddess Sophie Richardoz, it gives the release an exotic, sensuous & highly tactile quality • Despite their resurgence in recent times, cassette releases have a tendency to appear less substantial than those on other media, in part due to the (usually) shorter durations they occupy • But Ornitheology is a different entity, its brace of tracks amounting to over 90 minutes of music, a demonstrative statement of intent as well as an article of faith in the cassette medium •

For listeners accustomed to the endlessly new & diverse but ever unified output from Celer, it can feel somewhat difficult to extricate Baquet-Long’s parallel Chubby Wolf project • A simplistic view would be to regard it as a solo extension of Celer’s work—after all, her material obviously carries many of the hallmarks of the established Celer sound • But on both her previous releases—the EP Meandering Pupa & album L’Histoire—a notably different sound, i feel, emerges; one that might be described as more focussed & intense, more austere, & certainly more demanding (which is not to suggest Celer’s music lacks these qualities; far from it) • Indeed, both these releases, with their firm sense of patience & restraint, & the resultant cool, aloof textures, are in fact a world away from most Celer, really akin only to their great anomaly, Sieline • Baquet-Long is clearly an independent force to be reckoned with on her own terms •
Ornitheology, however, is the first Chubby Wolf release to acknowledge & assimilate the warmer musical climes inhabited by Celer; it’s fitting, therefore, that the work is dedicated to husband Will • The latter track, “Phantasmagoria Of Nothingness (Prey To Our Emotions)”, is something of a hybrid; the austerity remains in the narrow dynamic range & minimal activity—exhibited most emphatically in the droning pitch (C) that sits in the foreground for much of the track’s duration • However, this note is drenched in a gentle, drifting fog that prevents it from becoming irritatingly persistent, muting it & causing the surface to ripple & undulate • The effect is disconcerting: too warm to be ascetic, too cool to be ecstatic; the music hypnotises, confounding attempts to ‘place’ it, & the more i’ve listened to it, the more i’ve realised one needs to embrace the uncertainty • i’ll admit i was initially not so keen on this track, but it’s slowly (& completely) won me over, in no small part due to its reluctance to do precisely that •

On the other hand, the first track, “On Burnt, Gauzed Wings”, consciously allows in far greater warmth • At first listen, little is that different: narrow dynamics (if anything, narrower than its successor), slow movement, no extremes (high/low frequencies are entirely absent), but there’s an abundance of richness allowed to flourish here that is nothing short of breathtaking • It’s a richness that manifests itself strongest in a powerful shifting tide of harmonies that reverberate out & around like distant musicians slowly improvising in a vast cathedral • But ultimately, hyperbole & metaphors seem rather redundant in the face of music that’s simply as beautiful as this track is; of course, a great deal of the material issued by Dani & Will could be described in that way, but this really is something else • Anyone familiar with Celer’s 2008 album I Love You So Much I Can’t Even Title This (The Light That Never Goes Out Went Out) will know what i mean about intense beauty; “On Burnt, Gauzed Wings” really is as good as that •

Only a few weeks ago, i was lamenting the fact that, having listened to very many 2010 releases, not one of them had struck me as an unblemished 5-star candidate • Finally, that lament is over; except to say, of course, that there was an unavoidable sadness in listening to such a gorgeous album from one no longer with us • But Danielle Baquet-Long’s music ultimately conveys such a deep-seated elation that tears—even tears of joy—evaporate in its wake • This is a rare, marvellous album, one of the best from one of the best •

5:4 rating: 5/5