This new release from Celer on Somehow Recordings is a bit of a strange one. Readers familiar with Will Long’s previous output will be aware of his habit of releasing long-form ambient drone works, sometimes as a single album-length track. Such a work also features in “Redness and Perplexity”, but it follows a further four shorter yet not insubstantial pieces, bringing the total album length to around an hour and eighteen minutes.
Aside from the format, another strange thing is the sheer diversity of sounds on this release. While it’s true that past albums have sometimes had strands of field recording and the odd blast of noise woven into their dreamy ambient tapestries, here such features take on a much more prominent role, becoming the main material for the track rather than simple embellishment. So we hear a lengthy conversation from a Japanese phone-in radio show, glooping hydrophone recordings, harsh digital textures, and space-age swoops and beeps alongside, or in the place of, more familiar soothing synth washes. It’s as if Long were trying out different approaches, searching for a new direction in which to take his music, or maybe simply collecting disparate elements that would normally be released separately into a single assemblage.
All of which would seem an outright rejection of the notion, so dear to modernism, of the artwork as a coherent, unified whole. Instead, “Redness and Perplexity” presents itself as a series of snapshots held together by the thinnest of threads, the edges of each shot not necessarily corresponding to track boundaries. The challenges of adapting to new cultural surroundings, as Long has faced since his recent relocation to Japan, may have been one source of both the album’s new-found experimentalism and its sense of dislocation and disjunction. Yet if Celer’s long-form drones have always relied on a certain playing with time – disrupting the linear flow of things with an out-of-body experience that is more state of mind than piece of music – then “Redness” can perhaps be seen as a continuation of this process across different registers, challenging the ‘cinematic’ urge to narrativise with a more fragmented temporality that, like the rest of lived experience, often fails to cohere.
“Redness and Perplexity” is an album that engages many different modes of listening, and deserves careful attention from both long-time fans and those who’ve never connected with the music of Celer before. The release comes in a limited digipack CD edition with artwork by Yuki Izumi and sleeve design by Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek), whose recent collaborations with Long may also have encouraged the latter’s sonic explorations. At times this album has left me perplexed or even red in the face, but it’s one I’ll be thinking about and pondering on for a long time.