Reviews Search

Celer, "It Would Be Giving Up"

It Would Be Giving UpThis latest boxed set to emerge from Will Long's Celer reissue campaign celebrates one of the project's more recent works, as It Would Be Giving Up was originally released as a digital-only album back in late 2020. As was the case with previous reissues, the album has been remastered by Stephan Mathieu, but the more exciting bit is that I had never actually heard this particular album before and it instantly became my favorite Celer release by a wide margin. That makes sense, as according to Long, It Would Be Giving Up is thematically tied to two of Celer's other recent classics (Future Predictions and Memory Repetitions), as the three albums focus upon "ensemble pieces made with tape loops and analog instruments" and share a certain "wall of sound" aesthetic. While my love of Future Predictions is well-documented and remains as strong as ever, I now believe that It Would Be Giving Up is the single most essential album in Celer's entire discography, as it beautifully transcends the ambient/drone milieu to strain towards ecstatic heartache as high art.

Two Acorns

The album consists of four longform pieces that are each relegated to their own separate disc. That initially seemed like a curious decision, as the first two pieces could have easily fit on the same disc, but I ultimately decided that it made perfect sense to treat each piece like a standalone album or EP. In essence, It Would Be Giving Up is essentially four top-tier Celer releases with enough stylistic and thematic common ground to be presented together, which is important to note, as there is not a single weak piece to be found. This album is a four-disc tour de force because that is simply how much great material Long had recorded: nothing is unnecessarily extended and there is no filler to be found anywhere. This is simply four absolutely stellar pieces in a row without a detour or lull in sight.

The first piece, the 20-minute "True Maps Of An Unreal Place," is the album's most bold and unexpected stretch, as it is probably as close to a visceral harsh noise performance as Celer will ever get. Characteristically, there is also an endlessly looping melodic theme as well (albeit one with sharper edges than usual) and that motif beautifully floats above the roiling and howling maelstrom like shimmering and flickering psychedelic clouds over a violent and tumultuous sea. The following 17-minute "To Stay Up Above" is an unusual piece as well, as a half-majestic/half-menacing melody insistently loops over a murky, rumbling backdrop to evoke an epic and foreboding scene akin to the opening of Aguirre: The Wrath of God: a line of doomed conquistadors slowly navigating a fog-shrouded mountain pass, hopelessly dwarfed by their immense and dramatic surroundings. Sadly, Popul Vuh already recorded the perfect score to that film years before Will Long was even born, but "To Stay Up Above" is a wonderfully sinister mirage of a piece nonetheless: the looping melody remains constant in some ways, but also feels wonderfully liquid, unstable, and out of sync with itself as well. It is easily one of Long's most impressive feats of loop sorcery to date.

Remarkably, however, those first two pieces are merely an appetizer for the more substantial pieces to come, as "Imagined Settlement" and "An Evening, Elsewhere" both clock in at around 45 minutes of mesmerizing, haunting magic. In fact, "Imagined Settlement" may very well be the greatest Celer piece of all time, as its melancholy string motif has the intoxicating feel of a darkly sensuous dream. It also features an absolutely sublime dynamic arc, as the looping melody feels like it is subtly dissolving, distorting, and unraveling as it unfolds. In classic Celer fashion, the transformation is too slow and subtle to even notice in real time, but at some point one note starts to be feel especially intense and the melody starts to feel like a seductive Ouroboros in addition to being a blearily obsessive juggernaut and a dreamlike fantasia of quavering and ghostly overtones.

Remarkably, the closing "An Evening, Elsewhere" is similarly immersive and haunting, albeit in a very different way. It initially feels like lush and heavenly slow-moving clouds of frayed, soft-focus strings or slow, celestial exhalations. As the relationship between the various elements gradually transforms, however, subtle shifts in emotion start to become apparent and evoke everything from heartache floating in a sea of bliss to a melancholy, narcotic cocoon to a distant lighthouse in a fog of soft-focus anguish to a soul ascending towards a divine light. Of course, I am sure that I am merely projecting all of that onto the piece, but it is nevertheless a uniquely entrancing work that feels pregnant with heavy emotion and ineffable profundity. I wouldn't be projecting a damn thing at all if I did not find "An Evening, Elsewhere" to be so gorgeously immersive and soulful.

As I have noted many times before, the Celer pieces that have made the deepest impact on me have always been the ones in which a single perfect loop is allowed to lazily unfold into infinity (or at least for the duration of an album). All four of the pieces collected on It Would Be Giving Up are variations on that same winning and time-tested vision, but this album reveals an additional layer to Long's artistry that I had not appreciated until now. I had previously believed that Long was singularly gifted at distilling an emotion into its purest essence by crafting absolutely gorgeous loops. Obviously, there is a lot of artistry in finding the perfect texture, melody, and rhythm needed to cast a hypnotic and absorbing spell, but I can now see that subtly manipulating the volume of individual components with seemingly supernatural patience is yet another level of artistry altogether and can make an already achingly beautiful loop reveal even deeper and more nuanced shades of emotion. I usually try to avoid throwing around the word "cinematic" when i describe an album, as it usually implies that something would be a fine score for a visual accompaniment, but this album is cinematic in a way that makes me feel like reality has dissolved and I am now living inside an especially poetic moment from a heartbreaking masterpiece of longing like In The Mood For Love and that is quite a desirable place to linger. I genuinely cannot praise this album enough, as literally every aspect of this release captures Long at the absolute height of his powers. Getting lost in this album is a truly beautiful way to spend an afternoon.

Listen here.