Yui Onodera and Celer, Generic City (Two Acorns)

Generic City

Despite a lack of rain, the river still flows. Fairly recently, I remarked on the surprisingly steady stream of Celer-related material which was still emerging. It has now become a cascade, tumbling down with such speed and volume that a new vessel has been created to hold some of the overflow: Two Acorns. Two Acorns is a new imprint curated by Celer’s Will Long and dedicated to Danielle Baquet-Long, which will focus (understandably) on “sentimentality, in all its forms”, which will include not just recordings, but also books. The first bottling from this freshly-assembled vat is a fine blend of Celer and sound artist Yui Onodera, labelled Generic City.

The two (or indeed three) never actually met during the recording process. This was a purely long distance relationship, with Onodera remaining in his native Tokyo, and Celer in Los Angeles. Given that both use the same modus operandi, namely combining field recordings from the city with electronics and acoustic instruments, the result smears one city into the other, emphasising their similarity as much as their differences. As much as the album is about Tokyo or Los Angeles, it is about the things that they, and indeed other cities share (hence the “Generic City” of the album’s title), and the links which bind them. The mall chatter and traffic hum could originate from either, as could much of the instrumentation: guitar, violin, cello and piano spill out softly from the speakers, lingering in the sustained spaces derived in some way from Japanese gagaku and minimalist western classical music, without explicitly referencing either. Only rarely in fact do the sounds obviously relate to one city or the other: the sound of prayer or schoolchildren singing can be fixed with some certainty, and the drones at times take on the feel of a giant Buddhist singing bowl. I’m on shakier ground when it comes to the flock of birds which opens the album: a number of species of birds migrate from the US to Japan, tracing a natural arc between the respective lands.

And of course it isn’t only the birds which would travel between the two: a large chunk of the recording emanates from the environs of an airport, with its final calls and runway roar, the sound of bridges being built between cities in the sky. Despite what the map may suggest, the album quietly makes the point that Tokyo and Los Angeles aren’t as far apart as they once were. As a music box twinkles softly in the background, this Generic City feels like home.

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