Yui Onodera & Celer 'Generic City' (Two Acorns, 2010)

This is the first release on Will Long's (aka Celer) recently born label Two Acorns. Founded this year, Will plans to release material through a variety of mediums, not just formats, including books and film. I'm interested in seeing how this versatile label pans out.

Admittedly, I've never been a big Celer fan, partially because I'm always weary at any artist/band that spits out more than a release per month. I guess you could say that I've never under appreciated the value of quality control. The other reason is that of the handful of Celer albums I've acquired, it's become a daunting task in its own right to tell any of them apart. So I ask, does a band need to make the same album over and over again to get recognition? I like to imagine that if the music can speak for itself, then less is certainly more. But this is a collab, so anything could happen.

When this release was passed on to me (thanks again, Mathieu) I was, needless to say, skeptical. Upon tuning into the shaky opening sequence–an awfully rendered cacophony of bird calls, with no low-end to speak of–my skepticism was nearly solidified. Luckily, that opening sequence is quickly fizzled away by a more than sublime drone. Ever ponder at how amazing it is that an elegant flower can spawn from everyday dirt? Well then, welcome to Generic City. I'd say it's almost an underlying theme here: beauty created from dirt. And the album does have many exquisite parts, all of them in some form or another taking shape as stretched movements of blurred texture, often revealing multiple tiers of sound and hinting at what's to come.

Field recordings are cited as having a big role on the album, and it's easy enough to pick them out: birds, the crunch of ground beneath footsteps, rain, airports, cars, voices, chants and much more. Although there seems to be varying levels of obfuscation in the recordings, sometimes they are left completely unprocessed, while other times manipulated into unrecognizable sources. When an equilibrium is maintained between these two levels, like when a raw field recording is layered beneath a waxing drone, Will and Yui are at their strongest. The extremely wide scope of sounds captured in the field makes for a bit of a lackluster focus. Although, when imagining all the sounds that a city has to offer in a single day's commute, it becomes apparent that our lives, too, are bombarded by the billowing of concrete environments. I like to imagine the quieter moments as an escape from all that, a sudden turn down an alley where the street traffic becomes muffled, a detour through an urban park, or a stumbled entry into a church or monastery, where time and sound lay still for just a moment before you have to face the noise once again.

I can see this album squeezing its way into some year end lists. Good stuff, recommended.

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