Will Thomas Long has made some changes to the Celer sound in recent releases, such as the subtle rhythmic structure of Voyeur, or the unending meditative repetition of Jima. How Could…, in that context, feels like a call back to the traditional sound he pioneered, laden with light wisps of sound, and pieces that evolve slowly but beautifully, never forcefully commanding attention yet never drifting off into the background.
Loops play a significant role on this album as well, but in less of a static context and more as a foundation that the pieces are built upon. The source material is rather basic: electric piano and flute, but what appears on How Could… is the result of decay. The instrumental loops were extracted from cassette tapes that had been exposed to the sun and warped vinyl test pressings, resulting in a sound that is as hot and arid as the Western US desert landscapes that inspired the album.
“Bleeds and Swell Blends” resembles the ghosts of digital chimes, drifting light and weightless through space. There is a delicate and gentle sensibility to the piece that is quite peaceful, yet has a haunting quality to it. “These Dreams, How Portentously Gloomy” is a more than apt title for the following composition. Digital piano tones shine through a glistening passage of sound that would make perfect film score music, floating slowly and eventually taking on a more somber, introspective mood in its second half.
The source of “Natural Deflections” is less clear, because the sound resembles that of bowed strings, but what Long actually began with is not at all explicit. It has an even more buoyant quality to it, sparse but consisting of a strong collection of beautiful tonal drifts. The closing piece “Acrimonious, Like Fiddles” at first is built upon slightly more dissonant sounds, ones that sound clearly like they began as flute recordings. The loops are shorter so the pacing a bit more dynamic, but the mood is sadder compared to the other pieces. Towards its conclusion, the more dissonant elements are reeled in to emphasize the purer, clean tones.
How Could… is released on the three major formats, and not only was the mastering done to best present the sound on tape, CD and record, the cassette version features alternate versions of “Bleeds and Swell Blends” and “Acrimonious, Like Fiddles”. The differences are subtle, but perceptible. The former seems to have a wider stereo spread, with a greater separation of channels. “Acrimonious” has a thinner sonic spectrum to it, befitting the sound of a sun-damaged tape that sourced the piece.
Like much of Celer’s work, How Could… has a distinctly sparse and introspective sound to it. Changes are slow, and are largely the result of loops that are tweaked and processed over time. The source of the base recordings here adds an extra bit of complexity, because that expansive, sun bleached sound shines through from those damaged tapes and records.