BACKGROUND CURTAIN reviewed

celer-and-dirk-serries

“On Background Curtain (ZOHARUM ZOHAR 129-2), we have a collaboration between Celer and Dirk Serries. Celer, i.e. the American Will Long, is familiar for his minimal ambient music which can be quite beautiful on occasion, and his Inside The Head of Gods was judged by us as a “masterpiece of understatement”. Belgian droner Dirk Serries used to be Vidna Obmama throughout the 1980s, and also recorded as Fear Falls Burning, a project where the weapon of choice was a guitar.

I suppose both players have an interest in long tones, subtle shifts of timbre, and a creative approach which involves much processing work. Processing is certainly the hallmark of Background Curtain. In fact it seems to be the basis for the entire piece. Celer sent a tape to Dirk one fine day in 2012. The time-stretched segment of collaged work was, to its creator, “puzzling and unworkable”. Yet Dirk came through and rallied like a Hessian, and returned something to Celer. At this point the tape-trading story becomes unclear to me, but it seems that Dirk didn’t actually rework the original unworkable tapes, and instead produced something entirely new while he was listening to them. Another year goes by, and Celer (clearly not a man to rush into things) has the brilliant idea of mashing up the new Dirk Serries music with his original source recording. He got to work behind his multi-tasking processor desk. “The musical colour and frequencies were the same,” he assures us, “but the effects and enveloping were triggered by the waves of Dirk’s track”. This feels a little sketchy, but I think I get the general idea, and I can understand why creators would wish to protect their working methods by shrouding them in vagueness and ambiguity.

Two long pieces ended up being pressed on the present CD as a result of this long and drawn-out creative process – ‘Above/Below’ and ‘Below/Above’. The first one is a slow-moving blanket of swaddling ambient sounds where everything sounds processed and unrecognisable, yet not to the point of becoming saccharine goo. On the second piece, it’s just about possible to discern some guitar notes, keening their forlorn cries like slowed-down seagull effects from a Bill Nelson performance. However, there’s no real point in trying to unbake this sonic pie; the point that Celer wishes we would concentrate on is the presence of what he calls the “background curtain”, presumably referring to his original “puzzling and unworkable” source material. I think he’s right to call it a curtain; it’s certainly not rigid enough to be called a spine or backbone. “Even if you can’t hear its place, it’s definitely there,” he assures us. “Maybe you can hear it?” The Sound Projector – UK

“Background Curtain” is the effect of a teaming between two known and respected old ambient wolves. Will Long, hiding behind Celer moniker has released dozens of materials. And I mean literally; only this year already four full length materials are out. Check his Bandcamp – a lot of his albums you’ll find there to download with the “name your price” option. Dirk Serries is no less prolific. His main project is Vidna Obmana, now inactive but leaving a great legacy and sometimes coming back to us with the archive compendiums, re-releases of the old tapes and so on. Like the resurrecting of his classic cassette “The Face That Must Die” which was reissued only a few days ago by the Ukrainian Old Captain label. Now Dirk works under his own name and also is a member of several collectives, also those outside the ambient microcosmos, like Yodok III, an impressive experimental jazz ensemble.

Dirk Serries simply loves to share and mix his musical thoughts and ideas with other artists. I mean just check his list of accomplices in sound manipulations: Steve Roach, Alio Die, Asmus Tietchens, Jesu, Aidan Baker and I could go on and on. Will Long doesn’t have as much joint works in his resume, but the ones I know are truly exceptional, like the those with Japanese ambient craftmen, Hakobune or Yui Onodera. So it isn’t that surprising that their paths have eventually crossed and the final effect is now available thanks to Zoharum Records from Poland.

They’ve never met actually. Will made a track, he sent it to Dirk, asking him to process it one way or another. So he did, sent it back, Will has treated the material with further manipulations and so “Background Curtain” was born. No big philosophy behind that, no grand words nor ideas dealing with the crucial world problems or philosophical concepts. It’s just a friendly initiative of two experienced ambient musicians who know exactly their job and what this music is all about. It’s a two track work, based on drones constructed of synths and electric guitars. These are improvised, abstract soundscapes floating in the air and raising the feeling of surreal melancholy. The vast use of reverb makes me think of these compositions as aural stains, clouds without sharp edges. It’s ambient by definition, like suspended in time and space, sometimes similar to the works by Robert Rich or Steve Roach.

If you know their previous works, especially Celer albums you may be surprised by the relatively short duration of the album as it is around 35 minutes long. Will Long likes the more epic forms, at least when it comes to his individual works. After all, the name obliges to something, right? Seriously though, I noticed lately that I feel more and more tired with the 60+ minutes releases (unless these are Mathias Grassow albums), so for this moment it is quite an optimal amount of music from these two ambient warhorses. Not groundbreaking, but an easily recommendable piece for all the drone lovers out there.” Santa Sangre Magazine – Poland

“Bei einem Dauerproduzenten wie Will Long alias Celer, der keine Pause zu kennen scheint und in den letzten Jahren dutzende Releases herausgehauen hat, bleibt es nicht aus, dass sich der eine oder andere Entwurf als Sackgasse erweist, auf die der eigene kreative Fluss mit einer Blockade reagiert. Manchmal mag der Papierkorb der beste Freund des Schaffenden sein, doch wenn da Gefühl nicht losbekommt, dass in einem scheinbar unbearbeitbaren Fragment doch noch Potenzial steckt, liegen zwei Lösungen nahe: Die eine wäre, etwas Zeit verstreichen zu lassen und ich dem Material später erneut zu nähern, mit er entsprechenden Distanz, die es wie das Werk einer anderen Person erscheinen lässt. Die andere wäre, auf Kollaboration zu setzen und Kollegen mit der Dekonstruktion des Stoffes zu betrauen.

Long hat sich im Entstehungsprozess der hier vorliegenden Aufnahmen für beides entschieden, und so entstand über einen Zeitraum von rund vier Jahren im Austausch mit Dirk Serries (Fear Falls Burning, Vidna Obmana), den er zunächst ohne viel Hoffnung anleierte, doch noch ein ganzes Album, dem man eines schon mal bescheinigen darf: Es wirkt derart homogen und harmonisch, dass man ihm die verquere Vorgeschichte kaum anmerkt.

„Background Curtain“ ist ein sanft dröhnendes und angenehm schwermütiges Ambientalbum geworden, dessen lange und weit ausgreifende Soundscapes auch durch die ungewöhnliche Färbung der Sound an Substanz gewinnt. Gerade in ruhigeren Momenten der gemach an und abschwellenden Klänge blitzt immer mal die (trügerische?) Illusion ortbarer Instrumente auf, eine Schiffssirene, eine Klarinette, das Läuten einer Kirchenglocke oder raue Gitarren. Doch die Klangquellen sind nicht so relevant, erfüllen solche Momente doch vor allem die Funktion, den Hörer nicht vollends der Einlullung preiszugeben. Ist die Aufmerksamkeit erst entsprechend geschärft, dann ist der düstere Untergrund aus atonalem Rauschen und Rumoren immer deutlicher zu hören, ebenso die kleinen exaltierten Synthietupfer, die vereinzelt aus dem melierten Soundgemisch herausspringen.

Beide Musiker haben schon Ereignisreicheres produziert als die beiden ausladenden Tracks, die dem ursprünglichen Material eine jeweils andere Gestalt verpassen. Wer also im Ambien Spannung (oder auch so etwas wie Berieselung) sucht, der soltle sich zuvor die im Netz verfügbaren Auszüge anhören. Bestens bedient werden Freunde der subtilen Regression und alle, die mit Vorliebe Verstecktes aufspüren. (J.G.)” African Paper – Germany

“La polacca Zoharum produce nell’ottobre dello scorso anno questa collaborazione tra due mostri sacri della musica ambient e dello sperimentalismo quali Dirk Serries e Will Long aka Celer. La storia di questo progetto collaborativo confluito poi in “Background Courtain” comincia nel 2012, quando, dopo alcuni scambi di LP tra i due, Long invia una lunga traccia che riuniva dei pezzi sonori da lui prodotti a Serries, trovandoli inutilizzabili e sperando che l’artista belga riuscisse a ricavarne qualcosa. Tempo dopo, Serries invia a Long una serie di tracce ispirate dall’ascolto di quel nastro, ed usando come base la traccia definita ostica ed inutilizzabile all’inizio, i pezzi di Serries vengono avviluppati ad essa creando appunto questo album formato da due lunghe suite ambient sospese ed impalpabili, soundscapes da altri mondi dalla presenza allungata e riverberata. Disponibile in edizione strettamente limitata a 300 esemplari in digipak a 3 pannelli, con artwork dall’effetto vintage – molto inerente al contenuto sonoro – creato da Rudger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek) e basato su una foto dello stesso Will Long.” Darkroom – Italy

Advertisements