Celer: Rags of Contentment

Listening Mirror: On the Passing of Chavela

Though Celer's Rags of Contentment is Dronarivm's inaugural release (in an edition of 222 copies), it was previously issued on cassette in 2010 on Digitalis Limited. There's no indication of the material's actual recording date, however, though it appears to be one the group produced when Danielle Baquet-Long was alive (and therefore earlier than July 8, 2009), as she is credited with not only the Nepal-based photography but music production, too—Will Long also, of course, credited with the latter. Regardless, the material is classic Celer and receives an attractive presentation in the form of a large, trifold card cover (designed by Rutger Zuydervelt aka Machinefabriek), which one presumes will be the Dronarivm norm. Both of the recording's deep ambient-drones are in the thirty-six-minute vicinity. Quintessential Celer, “Pleased to Be in a State of Sour Resplendency” unfolds as a series of long-form, softly glimmering tones whose becalmed, unruffled demeanour suggests twilight. Autumnal in character and soothing in effect, the material hovers in place, gently wafting on the slightest of warm, nocturnal breezes as its pulsating timbres ever-so-subtly mutate. One could just as easily imagine the material as the audio accompaniment to a gallery installation, with the piece's thirty-six minutes repeatedly looped to accommodate the site's hours-long visiting time. Without dramatically altering the overall style, the recording's second setting, “Things Gone and Still Here,” darkens the opener's mood by covering it with a dark, translucent veil and having its shimmering organ-like tones ebb and flow in even more subdued manner. No doubt listeners with an affinity for Celer in immersive dream-state—sleep-state, if you prefer—mode will find much to appreciate about Rags of Contentment.

For Dronarivm's second release, Listening Mirror's On The Passing Of Chavela, Jeff Stonehouse found his inspiration not in a geographical locale such as Nepal but in the form of a person, specifically Chavela Vargas (1919-2012), to whom the hour-long recording is dedicated. In fashioning the tribute to (in his own words) “the voice and the heart of Mexico,” Stonehouse laid down the material in a single morning (August 6, 2012) using electric guitar, rotary fan, Ableton Live, and Macbook Pro as the attendant gear. To put the recording in context, the Costa Rica-born Vargas was a bold and free spirit, friends with artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera and not averse to roaming the streets of Mexico City with a gun in her belt. It's the impression her rough-hewn singing had on him, however, that prompted Stonehouse to create the work after learning on a Sunday morning of her passing. One might therefore have expected to hear traces of female vocalizing surface in the piece but Stonehouse does nothing quite so obvious. Instead, he generates long, shimmering trails of ghostly exhalations that stretch out interminably, and punctuates the droning mass with ticking patterns of fluctuating rapidity (presumably fan-generated) and occasional real-world fragments (children's voices, environmental noise). Organ tones drift into position and thread themselves into the glistening dronescape, bolstering its crystalline quality as they do so. As a whole, the piece, more mutating moodscape than formal composition, exudes the feel of a free-floating spirit invocation, an effect consistent, it would appear, with its creator's intentions.

December 2012