Viewpoint is one of the releases which Celer aka Will Long denotes as “a very special album for me, and in many ways the album I’ve wanted to make for a long time.” Assertions like this are valuable, even more so when they are coming from the respective artist of a specific work. Having been released in March 2013 on the Japanese Murmur Records label in a limited edition of 500 copies, I was able to buy the release from Will Long himself after a joint gig he did with Christoph Heemannat the Institut Für Neue Medien in Frankfurt on March 19. For the record: the cute pink flower in the upper right of the front artwork is a sticker, one of Long’s personal touches and generally not part of the artwork itself. Viewpoint was recorded between January and August 2012 and bursts at the seams. It is an album with a runtime of 78+ minutes, divided into 26 different parts complete with track titles, although it is next to impossible to assess where a new section starts and where others end. And one is probably not supposed to know. I am not being lazy here: the various vignettes and segues float into one another, their motifs are resurfacing throughout the duration, then under the guise of a different track title. Viewpoint is about quiescence, tranquility and carefreeness, but on the other hand also about shady moods, opacity and mystique. Everything is rather calm, and as it is the case with Celer’s Lightness And Irresponsibility (2012) already, darker and crestfallen tones become entangled with the arrangement and are at times rounded off by energetic sine bursts; Viewpoint is no streamlined lala-ditty of saccharine New Age moisture, but occasionally shares the characteristic traits of that genre’s pristine purity. Considering the album being recorded over a period of eight months, it is unbelievably cohesive and equilibrated. It is dedicated to Rie Mitsutake aka Miko who also forms the duo of Oh, Yoko with Will Long. Viewpoint is an aural, completely synth-based travelog about a field trip in Japan during summertime with fleeting visits of shrines, the crossing of bridges and the passing of lush forests until the endpoint in the shape of a picnic is reached. This depiction has to do it for the moment. I for one am lured by a specific sentence of Celer’s description which shall mark the end of this opening paragraph, as its meaning condenses the beauty and excitement of his trip and the various stops in the most pregnant and comprehensible way: “I was still unfamiliar with the city, but finding undiscovered experiences inside each place.”
Viewpoint opens with a section called Allegations Of Paradise, and I am not merely mentioning this title due to its state as the album’s kick-off, but because of the wonderful title itself, containing traces of Exotica and yearning as well as a pinch of doubt. Will Long starts the album with a quieter yet glaringly translucent synth scheme of the ethereal kind. Gently oscillating layers ebb and flow, rise and fall, always retaining their infinitesimally glacial grace which is then intertwined with breezes of loftiness, a condition that can be lessened at louder volume levels which unravel surprisingly feisty bass drones. Melodies do exist, but only in the form of half-tone sequences and sound surfaces rather then fully carved out strains of distinction. Speaking of distinction: only Celer knows the exact duration of the first sub-track, as the textures do not change over the course of Viewpoint’s runtime. My description hence targets many additional segments or counterfoils, possibly even accidentally so. Around the seven-minute mark, Viewpoint encounters a fair share of ecclesiasticism. Pipe organs are nowhere near the soundscape, but the tonality and atmosphere resemble a cordial solemnity that is almost imperceptibly interwoven into the endemic layers – a nod at the shrine which is visited during the trip?
After approximately eleven minutes, the bass layers return in tandem with both genteel and rather protuberant sine tone-resembling synth washes, and it is here, due to their cavalcade of glitters, that I first notice the overarching motif of entanglement between the layers: they cover any traces of nullity at all costs. Thanks to their constant undulation, the feeling of a pitch-black nothingness or a murky backdrop never occurs. The towering sine tones also elucidate the omission of haze, mist or fog. Sometimes a layer or two seem to be more aqueous and blurry than usual as they unfold in the deeper regions in-between the circumambience. Regardless of this specific complexion, every synth and tone remains crystalline, iridescent and coruscating, awash with light while scattering and distributing the luminosity themselves. It is around the mark of 22 minutes that Celer revs up the synths and offers wondrously shimmering textures full of plasticity and profundity. The listener, however, is never completely swallowed or encapsulated in an ecstatic incandescence, as Will Long stabilizes the surrounding layers which, instead of being foils or boosting devices, now show the inclination of counterbalancing the atmosphere with their calcine appearance and hatched pastel color range. Incidental slivers of gloom blend with the celestial state; maintained for several minutes,Viewpoint drifts into more enigmatic and reciprocating realms while keeping its textures intact. This vignette ends with incisive sine shards…
… which immediately make room for the soporific superimposition of benignancy and wraithlike reclusion that continues to dominate around the mark of 27 minutes, but is countered by diffuser synth apparitions which for the first time unchain a decidedly large amount of cryptic tension. Again, these impressions are only snapshots! Once the listener is contingently bewildered, the pendulum moves into a different direction, dilutes the pressure of the grey-tinted accentuations and complements them with milder undercurrents. This ongoing flow of disparity and inequality floats along for almost 15 minutes, injecting the same reappearing infusion of acroamatic synth washes and stern cascades of twilight. 40 minutes in, and Viewpoint returns to its vitreous morphogenesis made of ecclesial vesicles, a spellbinding coziness and various sumptuous vacillations, the latter of which are as shape-shifting and ever-changing as the destinations of Mitsutake’s and Long’s field trip. Wonder and peacefulness remain the superior forces from this point onwards, and Celer makes sure to submit synth showers of the meandering kinds, accompanied but not perturbed by frisky sine tones. Around the 58-minute mark, the tonal range even resembles the Robert Fripp-involving Ambient classic FFWD (1994); both Celer and FFWD never succumb to conclusive portrayals of happiness, not even when a beautiful summer day in Japan is the represented topic, but intermix shadier fractals with vivacious fractions. Perhaps consequentially, Viewpoint comes up with a fair amount of indistinct counterpointing runlets after 74 minutes, but thankfully closes in utter harmony, reduced and reserved as expected and with quieter tones, yet chock-full of seraphic streams. The final, utterly astute track title? Everything Rotates.
As with all of Celer’s albums he marks as eminently special, such as I, Anatomy (2012) and nowViewpoint, the listener faces two tendencies, each of them intriguing in their own right: for one, he or she who listens mindfully with an observant ear will eventually be lost in the attempts to decipher, decrypt and dissect the implicit reasons for each vignette’s existence. Will Long deliberately camouflages the truthful truth of the various sections despite his openness and explanatory markers such as track titles and accompanying texts, both of which curiously enough lead to the second tendency the listener encounters during the listening session, namely that of a genuine interest which will not die down regardless of the impossibility to determine or pinpoint Celer’s transparency. This crepuscular state allows and actually nurtures a less serious listening habit: it is comforting enough for a listener, I presume, to know for sure that Viewpoint is embedded in an important context, that it is an aural travelog with outlooks over treetops or riverbanks and short yet contemplative breaks at shrines and bridges which lead to the picnic in a perfectly normal field on a lovely summer’s day that slowly turns to dusk. One cannot possibly distill any of these (arti)facts in the soundscape itself, hence the – optional! – importance of the side notes and texts Will Long delivers. It is therefore possible to enjoy Viewpoint as background music, as pernicious the implications of this term may seem; it is a 78+ minutes long composition that gyrates around sunlit places, shadier locations and downright spine-tingling aortas. The stringency of the textures turns out to be an important boon in this regard, it allows a positively tranquilizing and mollifying zone out state and a deeper inspection of the balancing of sine tones, elysian gusts and scintillating New Age flecks. An important album for Celer and an enjoyable if equally dichotomous journey for the listener.