Label: Low Point
Release date: 8/24/09
Out of print
Musically, all of the sounds contained on ‘Brittle’ were created by piano, violin, cello, tingsha bells, harpsichord, and whistle. There are also field recordings from the inside of a room, with the windows open, but containing largely only room noise. The resulting recordings were then structured into 19 different tracks, which were then restructured into one single forming track of 74 minutes. All of the different pieces were merged together, to blur interruption and to allow the possibility of unfocused repetition.
The album is arranged to move in a specific way, not simply section by section, but by subtle movements that swell and sway calmly. Instead of creating an environment to sink into, Celer hope that the piece will instead act as a blanket, moving with the listener through gentle sways, shifting tones and small spaces of silence that are as unpredictable as thought.
Right here at the bottom, almost as a footnote, is a last minute arrival from Low Point records who’ve the strange privilege of releasing one of the first posthumous Celer releases after the incredibly sad passing of Dani Baquet-Long. A lot of loving words have been written & exchanged about this very much in love couple who just happened to produce some of the most tender, evocative, spiritual and otherworldly ambient & drone music so far this Century, leaving a vast catalogue of pretty essential releases in their wake. ‘Brittle’ can be added to the ranks, there’s not many more adjectives I can muster, I’m just constantly bowled over by the spectral, ethereal majesty of their particularly tactile, warm & rich sound art, an aural tapestry, multi hued & textured tones, overlapping in your mind, zen-like & ever powerful. I hope Will heals in time & starts to produce music again, but I imagine even he’d admit, nothing can quite touch this beauty…..
**Over one hour of continuous music** This otherworldly album from Celer marks the summit of the duo’s creative achievements, taking the form of a single piece occupying a duration of just under seventy-five minutes. It’s a studiously subtle and superficially unassuming body of work, but spending any time in the company of this music will have you rapt under its spell. As a starting point, recordings of piano, violin, cello, bells, harpsichord and whistles were made, eventually being merged with some naturally occurring sounds captured by a room recording. The compositional process continued with these various auditory fragments being structured into nineteen different tracks, all of which were then melted into the single, monolithic whole residing on this disc. It’s hard to describe the kind of sounds Celer have conjured for this; on the one hand, Brittle is elusive and reticent, yet it somehow transcends all the quietness and mystery, conveying the sense that this is a living, continually evolving stream of sounds; its serene, unruptured aesthetic comparable to the surface of a mirror, as if reflecting those background noises of everyday life back at you in a transformed state. Tragically, this album is the last by husband and wife duo Danielle Basquet-Long and Will Long, as Danielle passed away last month at the age of 26, having suffered heart failure. Such profoundly sad circumstances inevitably tint the album with an elegiac air, and without question the eerie, ethereal beauty of this music will surely serve as an enduring legacy for Danielle and her work in Celer. Highly recommended.
Celer’s ‘Brittle’ is a deep, complex album to write about. Hauntingly beautiful, ‘Brittle’ celebrates life and its complexities. Its fragility, its continuation (see ouroboros), and the importance of love and togetherness while you are here. Reflection might be the theme, but that was not the intent during recording and it is only the sad story of untimely death of Danielle Baquet-Long that conjures up this thought. This is the story book ending of a beautiful relationship that produced a series of intricate, docile albums that pushed the realms of natural ambient music. ‘Brittle’s’ instrumentation was created by piano, violin, cello, tingsha bells, harpischord, and whistle with additional field recordings inside a room with the windows open. The recordings were then structured into 19 pieces and again restructured into one single forming 74 minute track. The resulting piece gives the listener a blanket of sound to gently move through with unpredictable shifting tones, silence and continued repetition. Highly recommended!
Melancholy and ennui have been recurring earmarks of Celer’s music since the group’s 2006 inception but now everything that will be issued henceforth under the Celer name will exude such elegiac qualities to an ever greater degree. That’s due, of course, to the passing of Danielle Baquet-Long, Will Long’s beloved wife and artistic partner, who died on July 8, 2009 of heart failure at the criminally young age of twenty-six. Though a considerable archive that the duo built up before Dani’s passing means that recordings will continue to be issued for a long time to come, no new Celer material will be created—how could it be when so much of what defines the Celer sound originates from the now-silenced sensibility of one of its two members? As a result, releases such as Brittle can’t help but be heard as part of the group’s legacy and can’t help but be heard in light of the recent tragedy; the album title alone suggests a fragility that assumes a now especially painful resonance in light of the event.
Surprisingly, though Brittle presents a single track of seventy-five-minute duration, the track title isn’t “Brittle” but instead “Eustress,” the term psychologists use to describe the positive side to stress, an example being the motivational rush that one experiences prior to tackling any challenge, whether it be writing an exam or participating in a competitive sport, that can propel one to a higher performance level. In keeping with the fragile theme, however, the album material itself is delicate, ethereal, and low-level in pitch. The duo produced Brittle by taking sounds created by piano, violin, cello, tingsha bells, harpsichord, whistle, and room-based field recordings of ambient noise, and then structured the recordings into nineteen tracks, which were in turn blurred together to form a single, placid whole. The resultant piece gently rises and falls, somewhat like the breathing of a sleeping infant, as it unwaveringly and serenely pursues its divergent path with resolute purpose. Given Celer’s statement that Brittle “shouldn’t leave or transport you to another place, but … simply be ‘room music,’” the recording may be the one in the Celer discography that comes closest to realizing Eno’s famous dictum (included in the liner notes of Music for Airports) that ambient music “ must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.” In that regard, though the time-suspending Brittle lasts seventy-five minutes, it could conceivably go on for hours on end as an omnipresent and comforting presence within one’s immediate environment.
The Click of a Light
Drone comes in all shapes and disguises: you got your ambient drone, your metal drone, your folk drone, your jazz drone, your country and western drone, and your bog standard funk disco galactic drone. It’s a word bandied round more often than the village strumpet. Cus Pip is trying to make me put up hip hop as it’s hip hop week, I’m saying this track is hip hop drone. It’s not, but sometimes if you lie, he doesn’t notice.
This is one track, 75 minutes or so long, with 8 different ‘pieces’ melded together. Give it a few listens and you can sort of discern where one ends and another begins, but don’t raise your expectations too high. I don’t think Celer ever heard that variety is the spice of life… Also, if you squint your ears, you can also hear traditional hip hop beats and MCing *wink wink*I’m not saying that this is ‘good’ or ‘great’, or that it’s complex, unique, jaw-dropping or anything like that, because it’s not. For a listen or two it’s a bit like wading through hip-high mud, or trying to actually like Jane Austen, but you gotta stop fighting it. Accept it for what it is, and it actually becomes pretty sweet.
Celer est un duo particulièrement prolifique. Composé du couple Will Long et Danielle Baquet-Long, Celer a produit une bonne quarantaine d’albums depuis 2004 (et je ne compte pas les ep et singles, certes moins nombreux mais qui viennent s’ajouter à une liste déjà longue). Cependant, aujourd’hui, Will Long poursuit l’aventure seul. En effet, Brittle est le dernier auquel ait participé sa femme Danielle (que l’on connaissait également sous le pseudo de Chubby Wolf), du moins le dernier sorti avant sa disparition. Danielle est décédée l’année dernière d’un arrêt cardiaque. Elle avait 26 ans. Ironie du sort, Brittle a une signification bien particulière. Brittle c’est cette notion de fragilité, ce lien qui se brise dès qu’on l’effleure. Ce lien s’est rompu pour Danielle. Ce lien à peine perceptible qui la reliait à la vie et à Will. Brittle fait alors presque preuve de testament.Composé d’un seul et unique morceau d’une heure et quart, Brittle est le reflet d’une musique minimaliste, flottante, hors du temps et de l’espace. On asssite à des sonorités ambient et au développement de drones apaisés et qui souhaitent se montrer discrets. Les mouvements, ici, sont amples, comfortable et réalisés avec une lenteur telle que l’on quitte presque sans le vouloir toute considération terrestre. Brittle est une incarnation de la pureté et de la sérénité. Une musique tonale, claire, sans scories mais qui n’est pas clinique et encore moins déshumanisée. Fort heureusement, Celer ne berce pas dans le new age néo-sectaire. Le duo a représenté ici une pièce céleste et spectrale qui redéfinit notre vision de l’occupation de l’espace. Ce genre d’expérience est toujours intéressante à réaliser. Ils sont nombreux à nous proposer ce genre de voyage. Beaucoup, également, à se laisser abuser par une musique de psycho-thérapeutes douteux. Rien de tout cela ici. Il n’y a qu’une beauté universelle, primale et intérieure. De la pureté, disais-je donc.
If music contains the power to evoke our emotions, what is the sound of love, the most fragile and most sincere of emotional states? Celer’s brief but prolific musical trajectory circles this question, adopting a mystical perspective towards living and working through a fragile existence. Their recent CD Brittle was recorded last winter but released just a few weeks after Danielle Baquet-Long’s untimely passing in July. Their source material is all acoustic instruments — piano, violin, cello, harpsichord, whistles — but connections between individual sounds and their origins are as fragile and tenuous as the emotions they seek to describe.
Western music is based on a model of tension and resolution, an establishment of expectations and the delayed gratification for the ultimate cadence. But Brittle is carefully constructed to remove all traces of conflict and difference. Even when their individual sounds combine into consonance or dissonance, nothing is ever established as a home base. Even when a pretty chord rolls around, there’s no function, no direction, any more than when the elements of a mobile drift into a pleasing shape. Sounds are pure, without attacks, drifting and of long duration. The listener quickly turns off expectations, dismantles the entire cultural listening apparatus, and bathes in the music’s warm glow.
The program notes for Brittle outline some of Celer’s always interesting working methods. Their drifting ambient music is an outgrowth of using open forms, creating small pieces that combine in various ways to create a larger work. Nacreous Clouds, their 2008 release on and/OAR, was composed of 37 short tracks that encouraged shuffle mode, creating a different listening experience each time. Brittle shares the earlier album’s sound world but is one long track that was originally comprised of many smaller fragments. One imagines that the resulting piece is one of several possibilities, that in a parallel universe the Brittle release would have been sequenced differently. But where Nacreous Clouds displayed its seams, little moments of silence between each track, Brittle is a continuous stream of music, and the nineteen separate tracks that lie at its origins are completely erased, blended into a complete unity.
The normal musical vocabulary is insufficient to describe Brittle, so a reviewer struggles to find appropriate metaphors. Perhaps like fire light, the music is always moving, always flickering, never settling into a constant sonic wash. Or like the water in a mountain stream, moving over rocks, a continuous variation of sound, light and shadow. By removing musical landmarks, Celer demonstrates the fragility of existence, and Brittle becomes an environment for meditation and prayer. The peaceful work completely merges with its environment with nearly three minutes of room ambience, subtly framing the delicate sounds that have preceded, leaving the remaining music solely in the listener’s imagination.