Celer: Close Proximity and the Unhindered Care-all
Sentient Recognition Archive

Celer: Pockets of Wheat

Will Long and Danielle Baquet-Long had amassed a huge catalogue of unreleased Celer material prior to Danielle's untimely passing, so listeners will be able to enjoy new Celer material for some time yet. Pockets of Wheat and Close Proximity and the Unhindered Care-all, two striking additions to the group's voluminous discography, come to us courtesy of Soundscaping Records and Sentient Recognition Archive.

The duo recorded the raw material for Pockets of Wheat over the course of a three-day drive in January 2007 from California to Mississippi, with the married couple staying at a small hotel in Northern Texas during the trip. The concept for the album material came into focus as they gazed upon endless vistas of wheat fields from their hotel window and absorbed the soft rumble of the wheat blowing in the wind. Field recordings were gathered, and strings and piano were recorded too until five hours of cello, violin, piano, bells, crickets, and wind sounds were available, ready for manipulation. The duo next spliced the recordings into a hundred five-to-ten-second tape loops, which were programmed to be played through their laptops in no determined order. Though the material is described as being in seven parts, for all intents and purposes it unfolds as a single-movement work of continuous, hour-long duration. It's also a quintessential Celer recording: long, organ- and synthesizer-like tones stretch out for seeming minutes on end, at times loudly declaring themselves while at others retreating into silence. And though the piece is dominated by sustained ebb and flow of shimmering tones, subtle traces of nature thread themselves into the material: in the stillness of the setting that emerges in the occasional pauses between notes, in the distant noise of traffic, and in the omnipresent undercurrent of wind flutter, for example. Though the latter introduces a subtle tint of turbulence, the work is generally as serene as the peaceful setting the duo admired from their hotel window.

Close Proximity and the Unhindered Care-all is as lovely, the recording also an hour in length but separated into three twenty-minute sections. Here too Celer creates beatific settings using processed strings, pianos, field recordings, and electronics as sound-generating materials. Natural field recording sounds mix with synthetic elements in all cases, resulting in three pieces of complementary yet distinct character. In “Part 1: Culling the Past from Unsentient Weeks,” soft tones emerge from the mist, after which we hear feet trudging through the snow or dirt, and the cry of distant seagulls; midway through, a disturbing ambiance seeps into the otherwise bucolic material when arguing voices appear (someone shouting “I'm calling your probation officer!”) but such sounds soon recede, leaving soothing ripples in their wake. In “Part 2: Indentions on Summits of Hands,” nature-based field sounds give way to a hazy cloud of melancholia and warbling drift that breathes so softly it's like light fading in a living room as afternoon changes into evening. There's ample activity in “Part 3: Tended Pouring”: feet trudging, an engine's whirr, chains rattling—the sounds collectively suggesting a field recording made at a farm—as well as softly shimmering tones that are supplanted halfway through by a more epic mass of ethereal vapours. Compared to Pockets of Wheat, the conceptual dimension underpinning Close Proximity and the Unhindered Care-all is harder to ascertain though such indeterminacy doesn't translate into any lessening of pleasure on purely listening grounds.

March 2010