Later Days: Song of the Watchmaker
Scarcelight Recordings

Songs of the Watchmaker's liner note clarifies that it was “evolved and arranged” by Later Days (Wayne Jackson), a detail that's not insignificant considering how much its material sounds like it was nurtured or coaxed into life. For a debut full-length (following a 3-inch Fällt CDR released in 2000), Jackson shows remarkably poise in maintaining his music's uncompromisingly abstract quality with no corresponding loss of musicality. Using customized software, he conjures unique soundscapes, his sonic palette teeming with alien noises beamed in from some remote universe. How to describe it? Imagine the seething, incessant chatter of underground insect colonies rendered even more alien by processing, or perhaps a sonic garden whose amplified plant forms are heard burrowing through the soil and bursting to the surface.

The nine pieces are arrhythmic, organic soundscapes, though of a generally restrained sort; to his credit, Jackson avoids using pummeling noise as an attention-getter. Over the course of the album, he draws from a virtual lexicon of abstract noise—squiggly dribbles, screechy blasts, bleeping glissandi, squirrelly chatter, gravelly static—though recognizable sounds occasionally emerge, like soft organ glimmerings in “Audiomata” and haunted voices in “Family Inharmonic.” Some tracks (“Mote”) are drone-like in character, while others entropically expire (“evlmx 6,” “Untitled”). “Events at Zyzzyx” might be the best piece, as it shows how carefully and deliberately Jackson shapes his material into compositional form. Deep, wavering shudders and grinding, piercing tones awaken smaller life-forms in this almost meditative soundscape. Rare for the genre, a lonely feel is cultivated, with episodes of quiet evolving into fiercer episodes, the piece's volume and intensity rising and falling throughout.

February 2005