A sense of place. Sights and sounds. Memories made and invoked. The juxtaposition of the mundane and the profound as we move through the arc of a day. All these aspects of life are all captured eloquently in Sky Limits, the latest full length work by American musician, writer, and photographer Will Long recording as Celer. The place the album is rooted in is Japan, which has been home now to Long for the past 4 years. The artist himself frames the mindset behind the album for the listener:
Hill towns and empty mountains pass by, but the smoothness of the train blurs the view, and it’s easier than ever to fall asleep in the low morning sunlight coming in through the train’s windows. We’re sleeping, or staring out at the cities and landscapes; it’s easy to imagine the sound, and connect it with these events. There’s a contrast and connection between this reality and imagination. They’re separate, but happening simultaneously. On a walk through the crowded streets of Kyoto, or a half-asleep morning, what was it like? Later, what do you remember?
How does one capture the essence of this in a musical recording? Celer does so beautifully by interleaving recordings of the most mundane aspects of daily life with elegant, billowy ambient drones that tap the deep wells of memory and emotion that silently accompany even the most banal moments of our daily routines. The concept works to perfection. The listener is immediately taken to a place of stillness with the airy reflections of the opening track, ‘Circle Routes’. We emerge from the reverie to the sounds of making a cup of tea with a TV broadcast in the background. Then, seamlessly, we drift back into reverie mode with the elegant tones of ‘In plum and magenta’.
This motif becomes a pattern throughout the record. Celer immerses us in the sounds of the commute – boarding the Shinkhansen or walking the busy streets of Kyoto – as well the sounds of home – feet across the floor, opening and closing of doors, the jangling of car keys. Each time we drift into another shimmering reflection with appropriately poignant titles such as ‘Equal to moments of completion’, ‘Wishes to prolong’, and ‘Attempts to make time pass differently’. Each of these could easily stand alone as fine pieces of music, but they become so much more compelling when integrated into the whole.
By inviting us into his life and his reflections, Long brings us in closer touch with our own. This is a truly lovely album and one that is affecting as it is atmospheric. Sky Limits is available from Long’s own Two Acorns label on black vinyl or as a digital download.
Be sure to read Headphone Commute’s In the studio with Celer.
Words by Brian Housman of Stationary Travels
Additional editorial by HC