“A week before leaving, I bought a dictionary and phrasebook…”
Under the moniker of Celer, American musician, writer, & photographer Will Long has released a staggering amount of material – a wide assortment of drones, soundscapes, sketchworks, and processed loops. No doubt his many followers each have their own favorites, but personally I always find his work most compelling when he creates deeply immersive on-location narratives such as Sky Limits (2014) which presented a sense of daily commuter life in urban Japan, or Two Days and One Night (2016) which wistfully retraced the steps of an elderly uncle’s tragic visit to Tunisia in the 1984.
Long’s preternatural ability to capture scenes and emotions in a kind of musical amber and then turn it into a story comes to the fore again on Xièxie, in which he takes us on a journey from Shanghai to Hangzou on China’s high-speed rail line. Like a cinematographer who slows fast-moving action on celluloid for dramatic effect, Long turns the journey into a mesmerizing soporific reverie punctuated by scene-setting cues like the bustle of a busy station or the whir of a speeding train. To deepen the immersion, he narrates the excursion in the liner notes with all the eloquence of a novelist.
“Covered in rain, during the days and even the nights, Shanghai was lit in a glow, a mist turning to a constant grey fog. Buildings lined with neon and LCD screens flashed, and from around corners and behind buildings, the night was illuminated much the same as the day. Cars separated the classes, their horns voices punctuating the streets, as pedestrians in groups loosely scattered the streets, talking and walking on speakerphone…”
As we settle into the journey, it becomes intertwined with memory and metaphor. There is a destination stamped on our ticket, but that is only part of the story as Long takes us not only forward, but inwards as well.
“Transit bookmarks each experience, every daydream, and in the end they’re interchangeable and indistinguishable between reality and imagination…”
Past is prologue to the arrival and the arrival is a prelude to new memorires and even deeper introspections. The trip may come to an end, but the dream goes on and on…
“I remember the beauty of the architecture of Hangzhou station, birds swirling around the pillars near the top, the echoes of the deep station interior, and the laughing at being lost. There at least we have each other, that memory, or that daydream.”
“Everything moves faster than we can control. Days are just flashes, moments are mixed up but burned on film, and all of the places and times are out of order. If it could only be us, only ours. If it was ours, if it was us. Sometimes everything goes faster than you can control and you can’t stop, much less understand where you are. I bought a dictionary and phrasebook, but “xièxie” was the only word I ever got to use.”
As author Pico Iyer once said, “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves”. By the time this album drifts to its conclusion, I felt as I had done a little of both. Xièxie nĭ, Will.
Xièxie is available via Two Acorns as a 2xLP edition of 300 copies (150 silver and 150 black), a 2xCD 6 panel package edition of 500 copies, or a dual cassette tape edition of 150 copies with over-sized slipcase. Note that digital copies include a bonus 2-track, uncut version of the full album.