PEOPLEText: Mariko Takei

Just released in October, “Generic City” is a first album collaborated with Yui Onodera, who works on sound designs in Japan and overseas, and Celer, who makes a number of ambient and experimental music based in California. Their first album explores to create an “urban landscape” blending with field recorded sounds in each city. Celebrating their first collaboration, Yui Onodera & Celer will perform live in Japan, as it will be Celer’s first visit Japan. SHIFT interviewed them who revealed each of their activity and the collaboration.

Yui Onodera & Celer

Please introduce each of yourself.

Yui Onodera: Yui Onodera. Born in 1982. Lives in Tokyo. Under the concept based on the relation and function of sound captured from environments and space, I create electronic music made by field recording, electronic sound, and instrumental sound.

Celer: I’m Will Long of Celer, and also manage the label Two Acorns.

Why did you pursue your career as musician? Please tell us each.

Y: From my teenage years, I was a rock kid and started to study guitar at the technical college for music. But soon after, I wanted to take the whole thing into my hands as my own creation. Then, I started to make music using the computer. It was the time when individually-made electronic music was called laptop music, which started to become popular. I might be greatly influenced from such time background.

C: I was never trained as a musician, but I became interested in music as a new form of expression. When Danielle and I met each other, we lived in different parts of the country. Sometimes the only way we could communicate was through letters. In 2005 we both began experimenting with music, and it developed as a new form of communication for us. The music became love letters to each other.

Could you tell us about your music activity? (What kind of music do you create?)

Y: Experimental, ambient, and electronica. I released 7 pieces, an EP, and 3 inch. Besides my own work, I took part in the label compilation in Japan and overseas, as well as collaborations with artists. I also organize and run events, make music for performing arts, and work on the sound design for web. Recently, I’ve worked on the furniture design, and made a desk this year.

C: In all the music of Celer, we would create music first through analog and acoustic instruments. Then we would process it on computers, or make tape loops from the pieces using old tape machines. The name ‘Celer’ actually comes from the French word which means ‘to hide’, and this process is essentially what we did with sounds, too. The end results were far hidden from their audible origins. We always classified our music as ‘Ambient’ music, though with a more conceptual idea than simply ‘background music’.

Yui Onodera & Celer “Generic City”

The new collaborative album “Generic City” has just been released. Could you briefly introduce the album? I heard you’ve worked on it for 3 years to complete. How did this collaboration start?

Y: When I listened to Celer’s work, I intuitively wanted to work together, and contacted them. They have also listened to my work, and we felt some kind of common aesthetics towards each other. After a few email contacts, we soon started our collaboration. Collaboration with others starts always just like this, listening to music, feeling something intuitively, and contacting them. Similar to meeting your boy/girlfriend, being intuitive generates better results than being calculative.

C: I think that we decided to collaborate just out of admiration of each others’ music. When Danielle and I began Celer, one of the first artists we heard about that we really loved was Yui Onodera, so it was very natural for us to make contact with him, and from there we all decided to collaborate to make an album together. I believe at first we didn’t have a clear idea of what our collaboration would sound like, but as we collected many new sounds for the album, and traded source material, the idea of recreating an ‘urban landscape’ blending our two cultures and surroundings came about. For Celer it was the longest time we have ever worked on an album, but I think the incredible attention to detail and long time that we spent mixing it, and reworking the sounds, in the end it has really benefited. It is an album we were all very happy with, and I think it explains our intentions well.

Also, as you are away from each other, between Japan and the US, how did you work the collaboration?

Y: For the basic production process of this album, we exchanged sound files with each other. First we exchanged fragments of each sound sources, and later formed the whole little by little. By collaboration via the internet, we can explore the possibility to create a new value, using such production processes that used to be difficult for musicians in the past. I think that was an inspiring challenge as a modern approach that reflects our society.

C: We recorded many sounds on the computer and field recorder, then mailed them to each other to remix, and mix, later compiling them all together. This was an easy process, even though it took a long time. There was plenty of time for us to spend working on each set of sounds, and the sounds we received were always new and fresh, with no knowledge of what would be on them before receiving them. It was exciting, and yet we had plenty of time to be patient and let the sounds develop on their own.

Yui Onodera & The Beautiful Schizophonic “RADIANCE”

Each of you have collaborated with a variety of musicians and sound artists. Who do you work with, and what kind of collaboration work do you create?

Y: Last year, a collaboration album called RADIANCE was released from a French label basses frequencesy, which was made in collaboration with Portuguese sound artist The Beautiful Schizophonic, who is well known for their releases from the highly-acclaimed Portuguese label in the scene called Croica. Their sound is characterized by electronic, yet melancholy and lyrical. In the collaboration album, as characteristic elements of each blend well together, it was well made as a unique piece that is different from each solo work.

Mathieu Ruhlmann + Celer “Mesoscaphe”

C: The only other artist we have worked with is Mathieu Ruhlmann from Canada, but we did this collaboration in a very similar way, even though it was on a different subject. Our first collaboration work with Mathieu Ruhlmann was based on the journey of the Mesoscaphe submarine, and was meant to re-create the experience of being on the submarine. The second collaboration was based on the story of the Kon-Tiki raft, which floated from South America to the Polynesian islands. In these albums, water was one of the primary sources for the backdrop of all field recordings, and in recreating the journey. I hope to be able to work with other musicians in the future. Right now I have a solo collaboration that I am working on with Japanese artist Miko (PLOP), and there is the possibility of Yui and I working together as well.


Besides live performances and album production, do you have anything particularly working for such as art activity?

Y: Starting last year, I began working on sound installations by forming an art group called +LUS whose concept is expression as mixed media. We capture a wide range art and design fields from sound, film, products to space. We presented our first installation in February this year. Each member works on their own field individually, so we have a hard time getting together, but we will work on different projects as a group.

C: I mostly am working daily on album production, just purely in the releasing process of albums. However I do like photography, and I spend a lot of time restoring old photographs as well, some new and some old, which I eventually want to be able to use in the publication of photo books on my label, Two Acorns. Also I have been working to restore old 8mm films, and transcribing poetry and writing from notebooks of writing. These things take up my days, as I do not currently work a day job, I simply work on artistic things and music management in my hours being awake.

What do you get inspired from, when you make music/sound?

Y: I am interested in and work closely with all kinds of things such as contemporary art including movies, literature, photography, and paintings, as well as architecture and interior. So I am not sure exactly what I am inspired by. I think my experience with different things is unconsciously reflected on my music.

C: The inspiration behind Celer was always love, and the inspiration of anything around us that could be applied to these emotional feelings. Even our collaboration with Yui Onodera has many reflections inside it that concern our comfort and discomforts of home, our everyday surroundings, and the streets we walked upon every day. Going back and listening to the album even now feels very nostalgic to me, as I don’t live in the same place anymore, and all of the sounds are different. Yet, I still remember those feelings, and inspirations from the past.

What music do you usually listen to? Let us know your favorite artists/musicians.

Y: Basically I listen to anything regardless of time and genres, because I need to understand the context of different kinds of music from the contemporary music, jazz, rock to electronic music before I decide what I should make now. Lately I am listening to hip hop such as Prefuse 73, Flying Lotus, Nobody, and music from the label Anticon.

C: I listen to all kinds of music, but I guess primarily it stays very closely tied to experimental music. Some artists I have enjoyed recently are Kyo Ichinose, Terre Thaemlitz, Stephan Mathieu, Ironomi, Olivia Tremor Control, Goldmund, Cat Power, Luomo, DJ Peaky, Dick Annegarn, Opitope, and Steve Reich.

Live at Iwate Museum Of Art

I will ask each of you about your working base. For Yui Onodera. Is your base Japan? Do you have different work between Japan and overseas? What feedbacks do you get from overseas?

As I live in Tokyo, my working base is basically in Japan. But most of my works are released overseas, so I feel I have more feedback in overseas than in Japan. I want to continue my effort for direct approach through lives and installation works to appeal more to people in Japan.

For Celer. As you are based in California, could you discuss the ambient/experimental music scene there? What do you think about the music scene in Japan?

We used to be based in Los Angeles, but for the past year (after Danielle’s death) I have moved around to different places, without a central home. I am not certain now where I will go next, but I will figure it out soon. The music scene in Los Angeles is good, though in the US it is difficult to have much attendance at performances, because the listeners are spread out so far from each other. Still there are many people who support good music and artists, so the music continues on without disappearing.

Celer, live view

Personally I really love the music coming from Japan, and feel that it is some of the most original at the current time. I enjoy many Japanese artists, and the different styles that appear. It has a unique originality, with a brave nature which is important in experiencing this kind of music. Japan has also been a huge supporter of the music of Celer, and I feel that many listeners in Japan understand our music well, while some other countries may not. I think our support in Japan is actually greater than in our home country of the US, which sometimes is a little slower to pick up new kinds of music. Still it is supportive in many different kinds of ways as well.

Do you plan to collaborate for the 2nd album?

Y: Actually we already started our second collaboration. But it goes slow as we both are busy for our own individual work. Collaboration with Celer is very fruitful for me to challenge a new approach. So I want to continue the production taking slow time until we satisfy.

C: Yes we began working on a 2nd collaborative album, and collected a lot of source material, but in July of 2009 on Danielle’s death all production was halted. I do hope that now that our first album ‘Generic City’ is released, that Yui and I may have the opportunity to go back to our source material, and compile it into a new album which would be very special. Some of those tracks for our second collaboration were worked on or created by Danielle also, which makes it very important, and makes it seem like she is still very much a part of our album, as she always will be.

Please tell us each of your upcoming plans.

Y: Currently, I am working on the second collaboration album with The Beautiful Schizophonic. It will be released as early as next year. I also got some offers to release solo albums from the label overseas. This will take a bit time to complete as I have less time to work for it. In the future I would like to work on the activity aimed for a concrete social contribution through sound branding for commercial space as well as sound design for public space such as soundscape designing. I hope to have nice meeting with many people through this interview.

C: I will be traveling to Japan for 1 week on November 21 for several performances with Yui Onodera, and will also perform with Corey Fuller and Opitope. I’m very excited to visit Japan to finally meet so many friends that I’ve known for so long, and have the opportunity to perform shows for our album. Once I return home I will continue to work on releasing unpublished albums of Celer, as well as continuing to work on the releases for my label. The second release of my label will actually be a Japanese duo, IL GRANDE SILENZIO, their debut album.

Yui Onodera & Celer will be performing lives in Tokyo. For the live at loop-line on November 27th, Celer will participate in the event as a solo artist.

Date: November 23rd, 2010, Open 18:00 / Start 19:00
Place: Super Deluxe
Artists: Machinefabriek / Liondialer (Greg Haines & Danny Saul) / Wink (Jan Kleefstra & Romke Kleefstra & Chris Bakker) / Yui Onodera & Celer (visual : Yuki Izumi (exportion))
Ticket: Advance 3,000 yen / Door 3,500 yen
Organized by CMFLG

Cuatro Jugones vol.1
Date: November 27th, 2010, Open 18:00 / Start 18:30
Place: loop-line
Artists: ono osamu / Tomoyasu Takanishi (a.k.a. FLOWER TRIANGLE) / naph / Celer (solo) / Yui Onodera & Celer + Junji Koyanagi
Ticket: 1,500 yen
Inqury: ambiencephono

Text: Mariko Takei

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