Celer - Engaged Touches [Home Normal - 2010]Listening to any of Celer’s music it’s hard to escape the context that these are dispatches from the loving, marital home of Will Long and Danielle Baquet-Long – work that often originated as sonic love letters between the two – made painfully poignant by the knowledge that Danielle passed away in July 2009. Releasing up to ten albums a year, the couple’s sound has swiftly become well-defined as slow, rich and wholly melodic meditations.
Engaged Touches, completed in 2008, takes the form of a travelogue of sorts: its two parts sporting several chapters each book-ended with field recordings from travels in 2006. Train sounds from both outside and inside the carriage set the work in the real world as they become washed away by the tidal energies of, for the most part, surging string chords. Part 1 features five such vignettes ranging from the opening pious tones of ‘A Once and Meaningful Life’, through a more serene ‘Remaining Stretches’ to conclude with much denser arcs, their soaring beams illuminate the room before returning to a pleasing loop of shuffling train tracks.
At just over 40 minutes Part 2 is almost twice the length of part 1 allowing proceedings to unwind even further. It opens with a muted but stately piano loop tolling in a welcome contrast to the more dominant string textures, the sustained notes bleeding into each other to form a gently stirring tonal soup. But, as the train tracks appear once more we’re taken back into the slow romantic swells of sleepy strings, the extra time afforded revealing rich details within each extended ebb and flow. Towards the end, the short pop and fizz of fireworks surprises amidst the stretched sombre symphonics before more resplendent fare rises up proudly to bid farewell to fond memories.
The overall sound is strongly reminiscent of William Basinski’s Disintegration Tapes, and apparently uses similar methods albeit without the corrosion: the lengthy string chords are apparently looped across reel-to-reel tape recorders, their unpredictable output multiplying and occasionally over-saturating the sounds to create a shimmering flow. It’s the sound of drowning nostalgia, familiar through the trusty epic cinematics of the strings, but a familiarity becoming lost through repetition. Both beautiful and sad, the romanticism feels too sweet and too sensitive to take in large doses, but rewarding if taken a little at a time.Russell Cuzner