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Celer Special Part 1: Stepping out of the Cocoon

img  Tobias

To Danielle Baquet-Long and William Long, nothing was more sacred than the arts. And yet, creating music was also a perfectly quotidian activity to them, a spiritual necessity as self-evident and natural as saying „I love you“. In their Huntington Beach-based home-studio, they would spend hours in front of their laptops doing just that: Telling the other they loved him more than anything in the world through sound, playfully leaving hidden messages and open confessions in the acoustic bottles drifting on the waves of their boundless tonal oceans. Music, to them, was a gift they would present to each other every day. It was also a way of following up on the hence and forth of letters when they were separated, which had lost its meaning after the two were finally united in their shared apartment and in marriage. During the best and most fruitful phase of their artistic partnership, Dani would work in the day and Will at night, which dictated a beneficial rhythm of shaping compositions both independently and collaboratively, with pieces growing gently yet insistently over time.  It also kept their work fresh and exploratory, even though the actual stylistic outlook remained clearly confined to a cosmos made up of undulating drones, sensual stringwork and silky ambient textures. In stark contrast to many colleagues, who enjoyed reveling in oppressive darkness and opaque mysticism, love and quietude were the pillars of their music. It proved to be a concept far more effective than many cerebral complexities and philosophical mind-knots: Their most recent releases would sell out their print runs within days and despite the absence of front cover stories or in-depth interviews, legions of fellow musicians and listeners were impressed, inspired and touched by them in a way that was clearly beyond the usual artist-fan relationship of the business. Will and Dani started out distributing their earliest albums among their friends, but in the end, their albums ended up winning them new companions by the dozens.

Tokens of mutual dedication
Their first pieces were never intended for commercial release but exclusively as tokens of their mutual dedication. Happy to produce for an audience of two, what made their music so special was its complete innocence (not ignorance) of working for a public, of considering the process of writing as the actual reward. It was to be a trademark of their style, even at a later stage of their career, when a tap seemed to have been opened, from which gushed beauty in both cold and warm streams like an inexhaustible commodity. As it turned out in the end, their oeuvre did, naturally and almost by a will of its own, aspire to be heard in the outside world. Tiny quantities - hand-made for their closest circle of friends - started appearing under the moniker of Celer, which was also to act as the name of their label, on which they released nothing but their own music. The first Celer albums carried aptly secretive  names like „Ariill“ and „Belsslsssll“ and were heavily influenced by Dani's belated rediscovery of field recordings made on a trip to India. While these initially seemed blurred and imprecise upon returning to the States, they turned out to contain immense emotional power after revisiting them with a distance of a couple of years. Imbued with nostalgia, immediacy, rawness and grittiness, a plethora of synaesthetic pleasures were embedded into these recordings, which would form a sort of recurrent theme through all of their future releases.

Gradually stepping out from their cocoon, their pace of progress was astonishing. Debut album „White Prisms“ was still short and searching, but ensuing full-lengths would already stretch out into vast landscapes of harmony and harmonics. „Continents“ can be considered a precociously mature work, highlighting Celer's talents for conveying a cornucopia of moods and an exact knowledge of how long to stretch their ideas. The anthemic sweetness of opener „La Oroya's Cantankerous Bells“ was a harbinger of things to come, a nine-minute string-loop growing through resonance and density rather than thematic evolution or variations. Here, too, the notion of music representing an environment and habitat for fantasy comes to the fore, an allegory possibly inspired by the works of William Basinski, whose influence the duo acknowledged by using the same portable reel-to-reel Basinski applied for his sensitive cycles of repetition and corrosive development. Fans of „The Disintegration Loops“ will undoubtedly swoon in ecstacy when confronted with the excitingly static dynamics of heavenly hymn „How long to hold up a breathless face“ from „Sunlir“. A similar tendency is also apparent on other tracks off that album, such as „The Look That Falls Upon Us Extends As If A Landform“, which hints at the interchangeability of physical matter and sonic waves.

All records from this period are characterised by a feeling that pieces could potentially continue forever, of there being no palpable rationale or logic behind their unfolding. The basis of the music was essentially simple: Cutting prepared recordings into strung-out voices and then playing them against each other in a highly organic way. Likewise, samples of classical recordings were accordingly ripped out of context and then repeated until they started spinning on their own accord. Celer made use of the same recognisable techniques which had become trademarks of the genre and which were, at least among some critics, regarded as obstructing musical progress. But in the increasingly proficient hands of Danielle Baquet-Long and Will Long, they would come to open up doors to a galaxy of astounding depth and intriguing ambivalence.

 

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