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J’ai déjà été assez sévère avec Celer (Dying Star) mais j’ai aussi été moins sévère (Sky Limits). Je m’attendais donc à l’être encore moins – il faut bien que l’on progresse, non ?, musiciens comme critiques – en gavant ma platine de ce nouveau rond de polycarbonate, mais pas à ce point…

Dix petits morceaux d’orgue que Will Long (désormais seul à la tête de Celer) a enregistré pour une exposition de peintures de Taichi Kondo (peut-être que le disque passait toute la journée en mode repeat ?). Dix petits morceaux accrochés les uns aux autres qui donnent un grand tout (mais un grand tout de 24 minutes seulement) qui m’a, je dois bien le reconnaître, soufflé.

J’ignore de quel orgue jouait Long mais ses notes, que l’on suit de leur naissance à leur extinction, ont de quoi surprendre. Notre homme peut s’en tenir à une couche ou soutenir cette couche en sous-marin grâce à un grave continu, de toute façon son destin est joué et tout en haut de la courbe il faut la descendre jusqu’au trou béant. Des drones ? Oui mais interrompus par des silences. Une ambient ? Oui mais une ambient qui infuse et qui provoque des choses dans celui qui l’écoute. Au point que celui qui écoute demande pardon pour tout ce qu’il a écrit sur Celer (c’était il y a longtemps, et puis c’était de votre faute)…

No one freezes memories and life experiences into musical amber quite like Will Long.  His recordings under the name Celer always have a context and back-story that is essential to full appreciation of the work and never more so than on his forthcoming album Two days and one night in which he retraces and re-imagines the journey a great uncle who drowned in 1984 off the coast of Tunisia while staying at the Hotel Amilcar.

Using the same template that worked so well on the beautiful Sky Limits (2014), Long creates an immersive stream of consciousness experience by juxtaposing field recordings in the form of short vignettes that create a sense of place with mellifluous billowing drones of wistful beauty.  Street sounds, a TV broadcast, or gentle breakers washing over the beach serve as points of reference as we float on a sea of melancholic contemplation in such  tracks as ‘Spindles and fire’,  ‘Sol Azur’, and the incredibly immersive centerpiece, ‘In all deracinated things’. By the time ‘Terminal Points’ fades into silence, we have traveled far and been deeply moved, so much so that it is hard not to submit to the illusion that these memories have become our own.

In 1984, my great uncle drowned in the sea off the coast of Hammamet, Tunisia. He was 80 years old. He arrived in Tunis from his home in New York City, staying one night in the Hotel Amilcar, from where he sent a blank postcard back to his family home in Mississippi. The next day he traveled to Hammamet, where he rented a hotel room, bought swimming trunks, and by the afternoon had drowned in the ocean.

In 2015, I retraced his steps from Tunis to Hammamet. Set part in fiction and part in reality, Two Days and One Night is both a document of my own experience and a re-imagining of what my great uncle might have heard and experienced 31 years before. It’s a shame he didn’t see the burnt orange sunset swirling over the horizon as I did on my departing flight at the end of the second day, but then again, maybe he did.
– Will Long, 2016

All music by Will Long, composed and collaged in 2014 and 2015
Recorded in North Africa and Tokyo
Postcard cover courtesy of Will Long
Design by Rutger Zuydervelt

Available on June 27, 2016 from Sequel: https://sequel-label.bandcamp.com/album/two-days-and-one-night

This is perhaps an odd ball for Celer; at least if you are used to a release with one piece
spanning somewhere between forty minutes to something that easily doubles that. Here
however he has a release that is only twenty-five minutes long and has ten pieces. These
were made for an exhibition of paintings by Taichi Kondo, whose work I don’t know (and I am not sure if Google shows the right ones; the cover has one of his paintings of course, but that doesn’t justify a fully informed opinion). Will Long, also known as Celer, was quite inspired by the paintings and recorded a whole bunch of ideas, but in the end only used the one that used an organ recording of twenty minutes and recorded a bunch of variations of that, using a variety of settings and spaces. In each piece there is one movement, rising and decaying, and sometimes this is repeated within the space of one piece, but each block is separated by (near) silence, which is of course a clever thing; it makes it easier for the listener to choose random/shuffle play and keep that on repeat for a long time, so new configurations keep appearing for the listener, which makes all of this wonderful. The music is very soft and not outspoken but as such ranks among the best ambient music around these days. Maybe a few more variations and thus a bit longer release would have been even better, but I had a great time, much longer than the ‘real’ length of this release, listening to this on shuffle and repeat and doing not much else in terms of other things than listening.

I poco più di venti minuti di “Inside The Head Of Gods” smentiscono in un colpo solo due luoghi comuni applicabili alla musica di Will Thomas Long: la sua necessaria manifestazione nel lungo formato e il carattere acromatico delle sue suggestioni visuali. Le dieci tracce del lavoro sono infatti non solo molto concise, ma sono state create in occasione di una mostra del pittore giapponese Taichi Kondo, un’opera del quale lo identifica dal punto di vista visuale.

Di quest’ultimo aspetto il contenuto sonoro è profondamente rispettoso, atteggiandosi a semplice cornice ambientale, spesso appena al di sopra dei limiti della percezione, risultante da un certosino lavoro di manipolazione, aggiunta e sottrazione di timbriche pure che, come pennellate successivamente sovrapposte, formano immagini le cui trasparenze permangono discrete, mai invasive del campo visivo.

Così, ascoltate a medio volume e in sequenze anche diverse da quelle dalla playlist, le tracce di “Inside The Head Of Gods” contribuiscono a definire una fruizione sinestetica che coglie l’essenza dell’attimo di un’impressione visiva, rispecchiandone l’immaterialità.

In November of 1938, Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio for Strings’ was broadcast on radio for the first time. It was regarded as “full of pathos and cathartic passion”, and “perfect in mass and detail”. While it was generally well-received, it was also criticized as “suffering from repetitiousness”, and being “dull and utterly anachronistic.” It is often labeled as ‘the saddest music in the world’, and is one of the most recognizable pieces of popular classical music. In an interview with the New York Times before his death in 1981, Barber said “I wish people would listen to my other compositions.”

‘I love you so much I can’t even title this’ was recorded in 2008. Inspired by Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio for Strings’, some of the notes were replayed incorrectly, and processed on tape and a laptop. The title came alluded to a Morrissey song, and she once summed it up by calling it ‘the laziest title I’ve never written’. I remember painting the handmade die-cut sleeves in the garage, having to hold a rag over my nose and mouth to keep out the fumes. At the time, it seemed like an exercise. Studying poetry had distanced us from the world – and did we think anyone was even paying attention, anyway? The theme was overwhelmingly obvious, and the title was direct. A few years later I chose a photo for the cover of a cemetery in New Orleans – another direct message, yet like everything else, entirely unintentional. You’d be surprised how beautiful the cemetery was that day in the sun, and how you’d probably be wrong about every other assumption, as well. But then, what does that matter, either? Music only has to be.

‘I love you so much I can’t even title this’ is available on 2xLP on sky blue, white, and black vinyl from Infraction.

Release date: May 26, 2016

Die Rezension eines CELER-Tonträgers mit den Worten “Wow, es gibt was Neues von CELER!” einzuleiten, scheint angesichts des Umstandes, dass das Soloprojekt des Wahl-Japaners WILL LONG pro Jahr im Schnitt zwischen fünf und fünfzehn Alben veröffentlicht, wenig vielversprechend – deutlich spektakulärer wäre es, gäbe es ausnahmsweise mal nichts Neues von CELER. Immerhin: Für das Jahr 2015 verzeichnet man bei discogs lediglich sechs Alben und ein paar File-Releases – stellt man in Rechnung, dass Mr. LONG im Jahr 2012 auf sechzehn (sic!) Alben zurückblicken konnte, so scheint er es mittlerweile also ein kleines bisschen ruhiger angehen zu lassen. Womit wir beim Thema wären: Ruhig angehen lassen. Ruhe. Ruuuhe. Entspannung. Tiefenentspannung. Und wer im Zusammenhang mit CELER von “Tiefenentspannung” spricht, der meint nicht nur einfach Tiefenentspannung, nein: der meint die ultimative, abgrundtiefe Totaltiefenentspannung. Das ist im Falle des vorliegenden Tonträgers nicht anders.

“Akagi” heißt das neue Opus und mit Hilfe von Tante Google erfährt man, dass es sich bei diesem Titel um den Namen eines japanischen Vulkans handelt, der so viel wie “Rotes Schloss” bedeutet und in den 20er-Jahren des vergangenen Jahrhunderts auch einem Flugzeugträger der Kaiserlich Japanischen Marine verliehen wurde, welcher im Verlauf der Schlacht um Midway während des Zweiten Weltkrieges eine zentrale Rolle spielte, die uns an dieser Stelle jedoch nicht weiter beschäftigen soll, schließlich wollen wir es tunlichst vermeiden, vom Höckchen zum Stöckchen undsoweiter zu kommen. Am wahrscheinlichsten ist’s eh, dass es der Vulkan war, der als Namenspatron diente, insofern belassen wir’s der Einfachheit halber dabei. Im Rahmen des, von WILL LONG höchstselbst verfassten Promotextes erfahren wir überdies zweierlei: Zum einen, dass er die Musik auf dem Album – ein einziges Stück von knapp 80 Minuten Länge – für ein “live yoga event at Yougenji temple in Northern Tokyo” eingespielt hat, wo sie quasi als Soundtrack fungierte und auf das anwesende Publikum eine extrem beruhigende bis einschläfernde Wirkung ausübte. Zum anderen, dass ihn selbst diese Musik an seine selige Großmutter sowie die Wärme und Ruhe erinnert, die sie ungeachtet der Bettlägerigkeit ausstrahlte, welche sie in den letzten Jahren ihres Lebens erdulden musste. In diesem Zusammenhang scheint es denn recht naheliegend, es könnte sich bei jener älteren Dame, die auf dem Frontcover zu sehen ist, wie sie, angetan mit einem blauen Kleid, mitten auf einer Schotterpiste im Wald an einem blauen Auto lehnt und freundlich in die Kamera winkt, um ebendiese LONG’sche Oma handeln.

So viel zum thematischen Hintergrund, der zugegebenermaßen irgendwie diffus und ein bisschen beliebig bleibt. Doch das ist halb so wild, denn kommen wir zur Musik, so kann die deutlich kürzer abgehandelt werden. Wenn man nämlich eines mit Fug & Recht sagen kann, dann dieses: “Akagi” ist ein absolut typisches CELER-Album, wie der Mann schon Dutzende und Aberdutzende unter die Leute gebracht hat. Und auch, wenn der Rezensent grundsätzlich durchaus mit musikalischer Monotonie nebst endlos kreiselnden, an- & abschwellenden Drones und Soundflächen im allgemeinen sowie CELER im besonderen sympathisiert, so muss an dieser Stelle rigoros Klartext gesprochen werden: Angesichts des, von dergleichen meditativem Gesumsel aus sämtlichen Nähten platzenden CELER-Backkatalogs ist “Akagi” – man entschuldige die deutlichen Worte, doch hier sind sie unumgänglich – überflüssig wie ein Kropf. Es mag ja sein, dass WILL LONG hier, wie er im Promotext ausführt, allerlei technische Innovationen aufgefahren hat – am Ergebnis ändert das wenig bis gar nichts, denn der Sound ist exakt derselbe, wie man ihn von -zig anderen seiner zahlreichen Veröffentlichungen kennt. “For this I created a new piece of music using two reel-to-reel tape machines, and two tape loops of keyboards with similar time structures, but each with different, overlapping chords”, so LONG. Und weiter: “They played simultaneously, crossing in different combinations, and with manual alterations of the volume and high/low settings on the machines.” Man möchte entgegnen: Das ist ja alles gut und schön, Herr Musikant, am Ende steht dann aber doch einer jener endlos langen Einschlafdrones, wie CELER sie seit Jahren produziert. Und irgendwann wird das selbst dem erklärtesten und wohlwollendsten Freund der Wohnzimmertapetenmusik ein wenig zu fad, zumal, wenn die Soundemissionen derart inflationär den Markt fluten.

Fazit: Nett gemeinte Veröffentlichung von einem zweifellos sympathischen Zeitgenossen, der zweifellos nur die allerbesten Absichten hat. Das ändert leider nichts an der grundstürzenden Redundanz, die diesem Tonträger eignet. Bei aller tiefen Liebe zum Drone, bei aller Freude am Ambient und bei aller erklärtermaßen vorhandenen Liebe zu CELER: Diese CD braucht echt kein Mensch. Sorry, Mr. LONG!

Celer‘s ambient music is a quietly stirring dream that flutters around the eyelashes of reality. By now, ambient listeners should be well-acquainted with the hushed, introspective music of Will Long. Inside the Head of Gods is barely there itself, its short, organ-led pieces painted with loving kindness. The shapes and tones are similar throughout the record, creating an absorbing album that congeals rather than dislocates.

Introverted notes mix in with the rumbling swells that linger in the background, and gradually this painting – this work of art – comes to life. The tones may be similar to one another, but in a way they’re also vastly different to each other. The same colours enter a million and one paintings, but each painting is unique. The words and letters in the English language are constantly recycled; they all use the alphabet, but novels are never identical. Sure, the words are the same, but the sentences, chapters and overall narratives are very different. Of course, the same is true in music. For example, the notes in a pentatonic blues lick can be rearranged a thousand times, despite its supposed 5-note limitations. But it can still sound fresh. And so it is with Inside the Head of Gods.

On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be a lot happening here. That’s fine – it’s ambient music! It just has to be. Made to accompany the paintings of Taichi Kondo for his exhibition ‘What’s my name?’ at Finale Art File in Manila, Philippines (April 6 –April 30, 2016), Inside the Head of Gods is an introverted, subjective listen that absorbs into the very room. After sifting through many different layers, tones and timbres, Long eventually settled on one 20-minute piece of organ music. And it fits. As Long says himself: ‘Like the paint on a canvas, it’s all made of paint’. The music fits the contemplative and reflective space of a gallery, but the music also rises up on its own two legs and can be appreciated with no other artistry in sight. After all, ambient music, and Celer’s music in particular, is a painting of sound.

Vapours of steam rise up, shaping the notes gently until they resemble the fine, glassy curves of a Coca Cola bottle. These are subtle variations on a beautiful, almost poetic theme, and Long did the right thing in shining a direct light on one particular aspect of the sound. These vignettes swirl in the air as they wrap their ghostly arms around the listener. The muted, dry tone is suppressed rather than suffocated, and the organ’s shuddering, all-consuming, cataclysmic vibrations have been filtered. As a result, it’s a little weaker, but this lets the thinner ambient tone inside, and the swells still have the ability to produce aftershocks when they rise up. The tonal similarities keep the music consistent, and its artistic merit shines through. Inside the Head of Gods is a place where everything is different, but nothing has noticeably changed.

Akagi is a recent release from prolific & respected one-man US ambient project Celer. It comes in either the form of a CD, or a digital download, and features just a single seventy-nine minute slice of soothing, golden, and life-affirming ambience.

Though this is a 2016 release, the track actually originates from 2012 when it was created for a live yoga event at Yougenji temple in Northern Tokyo. The track is simple yet highly effective in it’s sonic make-up. It  takes in just two tape loops of very minimal  ambient keyboard drift – these each have similar time structures, but each have subtle different, overlapping chord patterns. These loops were played simultaneously, to create slightly different ambient combinations, with some manual alterations to both the volume and high/low settings of the tape reels on play-back. The whole track just slow circles though a series of lulling & rich simmers, fades & drifts.

The whole thing has a wonderfully pleasing, calming & mellow unfold to it’s slowly revolving & merging patterns. So you can either let it play out as soothing & restful background music, or concentrate more & let your mind focus in on the subtle shifts & ebbs in the flow of the track. I guess when one thinks of lengthy journeys into tape looped based ambience you think of the likes William Basinski – but this is a lot more lush & uncorrupted in it’s golden & harmonic reparations.

Truly this is a really beautiful & highly pleasing slice of long form ambience – I’ve always enjoyed this project past work, and this is another very worthy addition to the bands large discography.

Afgaand op het hoesje zou je denken dat het hier om sixties style psychedelica gaat. Mis poes. Het is ambient. Ik vermoedde ook dat Celer een Turk was. Nogmaals mis want het is een in Tokyo woonachtige Amerikaan die blijkbaar al samenwerkte met een ganse lijst aan artiesten waarvan ik er eigenlijk maar een ken: de Nederlanders van Machinefabriek. Sinds 2005 bracht Celer al tientallen en tientallen releases uit. De output van de synthesizertapijtenfabriek van Tangerine Dream in de jaren 80 verbleekt er bij.

Achter Celer gaat een zeer tragisch verhaal schuil, want Celer was initieel het project van twee mensen: Will Long en zijn echtgenote Danielle Baquet, ook een Amerikaanse uit Californië. Danielle Baquet was een muziektherapeute en kunstenares (zangeres, muzikante en multi-instrumentaliste, dichteres, schilderes…) vooral ook bekend onder haar artiestennaam Chubby Wolf, die echter op amper 26-jarige leeftijd overleed aan hartfalen. In 2009 was dat. Sindsdien is Celer noodgedwongen het soloproject van Will Long. Overigens verschijnen er nog regelmatig post-mortem releases van Chubby Wolf want in haar korte leven maakte zij heel wat muziek maar had niet eens de tijd om het allemaal uit te brengen.

Over naar het schijfje “Akagi” van Celer zijnde Will Long. In de herfst van 2012 kreeg de in Japan wonende Amerikaan de vraag om muziek te creëren voor een yoga event in de Yougenji tempel in het noorden van Tokyo. De muziek werd live gebracht achter de ruggen van de deelnemers die immers met hun gezicht naar de yoga instructeur gekeerd stonden (of zaten of lagen in een van de acrobatische yoga poses).

‘Gedurende de performance vielen veel mensen in slaap’ zegt de promo sheet. Ik hoor de cynische opmerkingen al komen maar dat was dus blijkbaar niet omdat de muziek zo vreselijk slaapverwekkend saai was, maar wel omdat ze zo extreem relaxerend is van karakter. ‘En ze leken weg te drijven naar een andere dimensie’ gaat de promo sheet verder. De muziek voor deze performance werd nu uitgebracht op Will Longs eigen label Two Acorns en ook de mooie hoesfoto is van zijn hand.

Op “Akagi” staat slechts een 80-minuten durende track instrumentale droney synthesizer ambient die wel wat weg heeft van bijvoorbeeld een Klaus Schulze. Het werd een zeer aangenaam, uitermate rustgevend, relaxerend en meditatief album dat ik intussen al meermaals beluisterd heb zonder in slaap te vallen.