Curtain Raiser

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?” From 23rd November 2017.

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