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Celer Special Part 2: Discovering the Recipe

img  Tobias

Intentions start to shine through
The Celer discography grew in sync with their honed craftsmanship and gradually, their intentions shone through ever-more clearly. Like Danielle's favourite poet Patchen would experiment with the inclusion of visual elements, Dani and Will would search for a unison between acoustic phenomena and lyrics, even if their music preferred the silent spaces behind the words over hands-down statements. Instead, introductory notes would provide for lyrical gateways and intuitive guidance. „Neon“, for example, carried an inscription by Baquet-Long containing a coded reference to the process at the heart of the recording, which involved the use of sensors and pulsing light:

A distrait table,
with empty dishes.

quietus of this
and none further
the expectation,

Wearing it all
like light reflected
off black glass.

It all pointed to a creative paradigm representing far more than a mere shift in semantics. From Will and Dani's perspective, music needed to withdraw from its anemic tower of abstractions in order to start serving as a creative vehicle for real, primordial feelings again. The underlying emotion of a particular impression rather than its material manifestation constituted the actual experience. It was a remarkable practical example of Kant'ean philosophy: You are what you feel. Consequently, their sounds were neither intended to be accurate in a scientific sense or to perfectly represent the sources they derived from. The duo were, quite on the contrary, looking for the most immediate representation of what they considered reality. Music was supposed to act as a multisensory stimulus, creating tactile, olfactory and visual impressions in the listener. In the face of a world which bowed down to the supposed dominance of the image, Celer considered sound as the most powerful medium of artistic expression. Its capacity to immerse, to swallow hole and sweep along was unrivaled by paintings, photography and even the movies. But to arrive there, it needed to do away with cliche and turn into a both spontaneous and carefully honed representation of these emotions – an ideal which was at the heart of the following phase of their oeuvre.

A mushrooming presence
At first, the Celer discography did not proliferate in a particularly noteworthy or remarkable fashion. In 2004, they released one album, in 2005 two. With their intentions still all but restricted to recording for their family and friends, there was neither any medial coverage to speak of nor sizable press mailings.  Then, out of the blue, things started speeding up considerably. In 2006 and 2007, Will and Dani  presented a staggering total of nineteen new full-lengths, putting them in a league with unfathomably productive Canadian Guitar-ambienteer Aidan Baker. Something had clearly happened, a routine had established itself, a recipe discovered, making itself felt in a mushrooming presence. Outwardly, there was a very easy explanation: 2006 the two were living in the same city together for the first time and it was also the year they first started dating. Letters lost their seminal relevance as a means of communication and jointly working on music took over. A gradual transformation was taking place, away from using recognisable loops and field recordings towards a style dominated by discreet and minutely placed references to acoustic instruments. It was the birth of a new aesthetic, which sought for unsuspected connections between electricity, man and nature. As they put it in the liner notes to „Neon“: „We hope to demonstrate a beauty of traditional instrumentation, the transformation of sound into the beauty of electroluminescence, the reflections of man-made lights and the unique colour spectrum of nature.“

Samples from classical music were still a procedural option, but they were now used as a mere point of departure for long pieces bordering the epic. „The Delay of Intolerance“ from „I Love You So Much I Can't Even Title This (The Light That Never Goes Out Went Out)“ was a forty minute excursion based on the noises of a string quartet tuning up, even though its sacral ambiances and choral voices, slowly oscillating between the luminescent and the shaded as well as between the richly pulsating and the demurely whispering, no longer revealed their origins. At the same time, Will and Dani were diversifying their portfolio: Pure, extended drone pieces were juxtaposed with projects based on a more episodic approach. Excellent examples of this mosaique-style can be found on the ravingly received „Nacreous Clouds“ (AND/OAR) and „Capri“ (Humming Conch), both of which are still widely considered musical peaks for Celer. More clearly than ever, the timbres of acoustic instruments, such as Bells and Piano, shone through and their presence was enforced by a magnetic suggestiveness: Some tracks relied on nothing but a few notes, faded away after a mere seconds and emphasised both the fleetingness of it all as well as the magic contained in even the shortest of moments. The quality of these ephemeral scenes was, at times, beyond belief: Other artists would have used the pensive, heartbreaking motives on „Capri“ for at least a handful of full-lengths. But just like they weren't holding back anything in their relationship, Celer never made the mistake of depriving their audience of valuable thoughts in fear of having nothing left to say in the future.

At the same time, they kept experimenting with form and approach. While some in the press still considered them drone-conservatives, Celer were, on the contrary, tireless experimenters in terms of their methodology: „Necrous clouds“ was created by synchronising the music to the movement of clouds and for „The Delay of Intolerance“, the Leitmotif of ascending and descending a mountain inspired the composition. While conceptualising „Neon“, they devised an even more intricate technique: „The Loops were repeated and manipulated according to time changes synced to the brightness and colours of neon lights, controlled by voltage input manually, and the sound through 2 laptops, with a single stereo output“, the liner notes revealed. The resulting music was serene, serious, harmonious and of a heavenly airiness. Simultaneously, they actively sought for stimulating collaborations, encouraging and inviting  different points of view. „Mesoscaphe“ (Spekk), a joint project with Canadian Sound Artist Mathieu Ruhlmann, was a first glimpse at where this could have taken them: Based on in-situ tapings of the Ben Franklin Mesoscaphe (a self-sustaining type of Submarine, which completed an all-but forgotten but historically seminal maiden voyage of 2500 miles in 1969) and the ocean, Ruhlmann's field recordings add a crisp and crackling layer of dust to Celer's all but immobile pads, at times attaining musical character. The general tone is sonambul, withdrawn and inward-gazing, but it is also a cooly erotic maelstrom of feminine and masculine energy – to Dani, it only seemed natural that a steely machine penetrating the womb of the water should offer up phallic associations straight away.

Danielle also sought for further inspiration within herself, creating the Chubby Wolf persona as a sidethought to Celer. Just like freeing a butterfly from a golden cage it released a cosmos of pure, pristine and crystalline outlines. „L'histoire“ (Gears of Sand) was welcomed as a heartwarming addition to the catalogue and an interesting insight to the division of labour within Celer – even though the mechanical idea of thinking of their music as a mathematical sum of talents does not  take into account the inherent indivisibility of the process at the heart of the project. At the same time, the couple had left the security of their nest and started distributing and disseminating their work through some of the most respected labels on the scene. Nascent Japanese company Slow Flow made a start by releasing „Cursory Asperses“ and  shortly after, the floodgates opened for real, with Celer-albums appearing on Mystery Sea, AND/OAR and Spekk separated only by a few months. Communicating with the heads of these outfits proved to be a further source of replenishing input, as did several collaborations with artists from the drone- and ambient-scene.


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