Celer: Climbing Formation
Entropy Records

At a superficial level, many Celer recordings appear to sound alike. But a more circumspect engagement with the recordings (of which there are now more than a hundred) always reveals details that differentiate one from another, and Climbing Formation is no exception. The way Will Long repeatedly teases the listener at the end of the closing piece, for example, by allowing the material to fade away before bringing it back one more time creates an almost unbearable tension that one can't help but remember long after “4-4 Free Daydream” has finished.

Celer is, of course, now a solo project, with the currently Tokyo-based Long carrying on the project he began in 2005 with Danielle Baquet-Long (aka Chubby Wolf), who passed away in July 2009 due to heart failure. But Climbing Formation (issued in a 500-CD edition) is pure Celer, a recording that could just as convincingly be taken for a product the duo made years ago as one recorded in Tokyo in June 2012 (as, in fact, it was). Generated from synthesizer, organ, and tape loops, the album's four settings drift serenely, their volume level pitched low and their arrangements minimal in the extreme. Softly glimmering organ tones hover for minutes on end in a way that makes the material feel as if it's located above the clouds rather than on terra firma—an impression bolstered associatively by the airport photo on the CD cover and track titles such as “1-2 The Overhead Emptiness” and “1-3 Being Closer to the Sun.” True to Celer form, all but one of the four pieces are long, ranging between nineteen and twenty-five minutes.

When music is so minimal in design, the significance of the smallest gesture is amplified, and so it is that the subtle swellings in volume that occur at the end of the opening piece become all the more noticeable and dramatic when they happen. As mentioned, the fourth does something similar, though in this case the ebb-and-flow happens throughout its twenty-five-minute run, with fragile washes gently surging while darker masses rumble in tandem underneath. As usual, Celer's mist-covered meditations are best absorbed via headphones and with one's listening state adjusted, if need be, until it's harmoniously attuned to the tracks' glacial unfolding. Yes, it certainly can feel as if time is slowing as one attends to the material, and some degree of patience and surrender is needed for the music to have its intended calming effect. One might reasonably question whether there's any need for another Celer recording, given the staggering number already available. Taken on its own terms, however, Climbing Formation has much to recommend it.

January 2014