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Celer Special Part 3: Standing the Test of Time

img  Tobias

A brief Celer Discography
Several of these albums are sure to stand the test of time and all of them are marked by distinct ambiances. „Discourses of the Withered“ (Infraction Records) is their romantic masterwork, a nocturnal fantasy of longing and yearning dominated by Danielle's deep, sonorous strings and a pervasive, consoling sensation of great calm and breath. Again, Basinski is an obvious reference, if only for the oceanic wideness of the work. But while the latter's oeuvre tends to feed from the way the essentially invariable material confoundingly changes in the perception of the listener, the long laments on „Discourses“ mutually reinforce each other, like mulling over the same scene in one's mind from different angles over and over again. With its spellbinding length of almost an entire hour, single-track album „Cursory Asperces“ (Slow Flow) offers equally enticing food for solitary listening sessions during the wee hours of the night. Slowly and almost imperceptibly, moods swing from fluorescent frequencies to mysterious semblances in a perpetually unstable equilibrium. A dream-like quilt of drones, the record is of an almost suffocating intensity bordering obsession and represents a gloomy, but nonetheless rewarding extreme of their art.

„Tropical“, released as the 50th offering on Brussels-based imprint Mystery Sea, is the logical continuation of this path, prominently employing resonance as a compositional tool – the opening clusters of syrupy bass vibrations are a statement of intent here. Already the track titles convey the same, slightly unreal and hazy touch of sorrow as the music: „Normal sadness“, „Empty Hum“ and „Heart Shapes and Requiems at the Height of LamLam“ are doleful and plaintive states, fields of doubt in search of deliverance. It is only in the rare moments when the harmonic spiderweb is illuminated by hopeful streaks of major key harmonies that the album offers respite from this oppressive atmosphere. And yet, it exercises a hypnotic, irresistible pull: „Tropical“ is hardly a trip to the Hilton beach club, but a musical excursion to „Homo Faber“'s humid jungle episode instead, an opaque, mescalin-blurred vision from a sweat-drenched hammock within a zone where time and space have lost their meaning.

„Breeze of Roses“ (Dragon's Eye), on the other hand, leans more towards the sensual and tactile and makes for an ideal bridge between the early dronework of the the duo and their later tendency of zooming in on the natural timbres of acoustic instruments. It is also almost certainly the Celer album with the most original background story: Recorded in the refuge of a sailboat's belly in the middle of a roaring rainstorm, the first draft already featured Cello parts and Piano passages. In the second phase, a full two years later, the piece was re-arranged and enriched with additional on-site field recordings. The outcome is a shimmering stream of pulsation, billowing and ebbing away in almost sensual patterns. It was to be the beginning of a fruitful relationship with the label, which had already scheduled „Dying Star“ for a 2010 street date.

Minimalism has often been regarded as the adhesive binding together the different entities of the Celer discography. The term, however, is misleading. Even though it is true that at least most of their pieces rely on nothing but a handful of elements at one given instant, the overall construction is far more intricate. The suitable image might be of a infinitely complex organism of cogwheels, each one influencing its movements in both exact and unforeseeable ways: Tiny alterations in timbre or tone cause at first imperceptible fluctuations or discreet ripples on the surface, which can however, in turn, occasionally lead to veritable mood swings. The act of composing appears to mainly involve maintaining a fragile balance and keeping the sums, subtractions, divisions and multiplications going on within the work in check. It was certainly no case of coquetries when the duo assigned the subtitle „In 6 Imprecise Parts“ to „Breeze of Roses“: As though sitting on a swing, the music absentmindedly rocks from one side to the next and all the artists can do is to prevent it from falling off.

Utmost tenderness

„Everything should always be cared for with the most tenderness, as if it could disappear at any moment“, Will had once said and for three years, he and Danielle had lived their lives according to this creed. They were certainly not idly resting on their laurels. Something different was in the making, a new stylistic vision sparked by an installational performance for the Spekk imprint, was to take Celer to a new stage. Their most accomplished and important work, according to Will, was yet to come, but they were not allowed to taste the fruits of their labour. On July 8th, Dani passed away as the consequence of a heart-failure. She had based her music on love and arrived on the scene in a quiet way, but the storm of shock, sadness and disbelief which followed her untimely death at the age of 26 was testimony to the colossal impact of her music, which transcended the anonymity so typical of the sound art scene. You could hear it in their sounds, read it in their poems, detect it in the soft and open voice of their emails: With regards to their music, everything was personal. Intimacy and the urge to share turned into unlikely allies because it was, effectively, never clear were one ended and the other began. That was also why, to so many people who never got to know them, their music was just as sacred as it was to them.

By Tobias Fischer

This article makes use of interviews conducted with Celer by Headphone Commute, the Spekk label and our friends at Textura.

Homepage: Celer
Homepage: Celer at MySpace
Homepage: AND/OAR Recordings
Homepage: Dragon's Eye Records
Homepage: Gears of Sand Records
Homepage: Humming Conch Records
Homepage: Infraction Records
Homepage: Mystery Sea Records
Homepage: Slow Flow Records
Homepage: Spekk Records

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