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Celer - Without Retrospect, the Morning

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Artist: Celer

Album: Without Retrospect, the Morning

Label: Glacial Movements

Review date: Feb. 21, 2013

The cold gets inside you. I’m not saying this to provide seasonally appropriate dressing tips; instead, I’m writing about the way that landscape and climate can begin to influence the art produced under certain conditions. On a trip to Reykjavik years ago, I noticed that paintings of mountains seemed to be their own genre in Icelandic art, to the point where more contemporary artists seemed to delight in tweaking the form, stacking unexpected objects into similar forms. Music is no different. Consider that feeling of insignificance one gets in the face of certain sprawling, frigid landscapes -- equal parts awe and dread. It’s something that the composer John Luther Adams, based in Alaska, often taps into; Loscil’s coast / range / arc had a similar trajectory. Given that Celer’s Without Retrospect, the Morning was recorded in icy landscapes in southern Alberta, Canada, you might have an inkling of what to expect.

The third part of a group of works focusing on water, Without Retrospect, the Morning often features a naturalistic quality. The seven pieces heard here never sound rushed, and their progression is stately. (I’d use “flowing,” but that seems a bit too metaphorically apt.) Much of the music is constructed from drones, some of them running in parallel, others keening out of an atmospheric mass. “Distance and Mortality” evokes the sight of light on the horizon, of a new morning -- though, given the title, it isn’t entirely clear if that light signifies a new day or the end of a life. “Dry and Disconsolate” slowly unfolds, brighter tones emerging from a more dissonant base. And “With Some Effort, the Sunset,” which closes the album, does so on an uncertain note, a hesitancy in the face of something overwhelming.

Without Retrospect, the Morning sits precariously between ambient work that unsettles and ambient work with more bliss-inducing ambitions. Its role as a kind of sonic meditation on certain qualities of a certain substance does hit a certain intellectual sweet spot, though listeners coming to it cold might not pick up on that. One could write for pages about that question of context -- if you’re encountering this album on, say, Celer’s Bandcamp page, which contains abundant information on its recording, your experience may be different. But regardless of how Without Retrospect, the Morning is experienced, its pensive qualities may well induce a similar mode in the listener.

By Tobias Carroll

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