|SCARCELIGHT RECORDINGS > releases > SLR26|
Later Days. Songs of the Watchmaker. CD
Wayne Jackson (aka Later Days) is intrigued by the complexity of emergent systems, both natural and computational. In the summer, this fascination leads him to create obscure computer music software. In the winter, it sends him outside to hunt mushrooms.
Songs of the Watchmaker is his debut full-length, which follows his 3”CD (Do, 2000) on the esteemed Irish label Fallt. Working with his own custom built software, Wayne has created a sinister yet playful album of squiggly audio drawings harvested from his sonic garden.
1. >evlmx 15
:| design by Cataract Press
+ evolved & arranged by Later Days
Later Days, aka Wayne Jackson, is a good hearty DIYer -- Songs of the Watchmaker was composed using software he developed himself. "Composed" may seem a little grand, but "written" doesn't come within miles of conveying the clinical, deconstructed yet painstakingly deliberate nature of this very aptly named record. Songs is undeniably computer music, but its interlocking components -- an insectile whine here, a subterranean rumbling there -- evoke the mechanical rather than the digital.|
Later Days is hardly machinelike, though. Even when "Audiomata"'s layered squiggles are at their most detached, they manage a certain liveliness; Jackson shapes his zeroes and ones into anthropomorphized robots and creatures. Elsewhere, it's an even less antiseptic environment. In "Differentiation", the initial soup of low-key bleeps and whinges develops into a summer-airplane drone, which in turn gives way to a frantic, gabbling scree, which builds up to a spectacularly glitchy crescendo of ultra-sped-up delay. "Family Inharmonic" changes gears completely, using breathy synth pads to create an icily lovely world. Some of Jackson's more retro sounds bring to mind old-school modular synthesizers; "Squiggle for Sol" resembles a soundtrack to a 1960s educational film about computers.
The Scarcelight label isn't known for its poppiness, and Songs of the Watchmaker is no exception. If you're looking for recognizable "songs", steer clear -- but if you dig oddly beautiful, sometimes maddening sonic sculpture that inspires interesting visions in your head, this is for you.
Sarah Zachrich, Splendid E-Zine
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.
Later Days' Songs of the Watchmaker is a brilliant electronic work which sparkles and resonates with life and animation. Featuring digital sounds which burble and twitch, move and mutate, Songs of the Watchmaker is simultaneously cold and beautiful, spontaneous and mathematical, a collection of dialogues and songs of uninhibited artifical intelligences.
Like multi-colored mechanical insects, the sounds bounce and chatter and move in seemingly chaotic ways, blind, relying on fractal patterns of touch and meticulous searching movements designed to sense each and every limitation of their invisible stereo enclosures.
These are beautiful, animated sonic creatures that are crystalline, magnetic, purposeful, each having distinct mannerisms. High-pitched, delicately piercing ringing tones slide up and down the harmonic spectrum. Low drones pulsate in mutating tempos, grooving to their own internal rhythms. Wildly fluttering oscillator forms, move left and right amidst carefully applied synthetic filters. Staticky thin white noise weaves it's way through the narrowest bands in the frequency range.
Countless other "computer music" works, no matter how expertly done, fall flat with inhuman execution, alienating the listener with their digitized blurbs and blips which do not speak, do not connect, which are lacking a "voice". This is what sets Songs of the Watchmaker apart. Later Days is listening to all those ones and zeroes and making them resonate with life and effervescence, shaping purposeful gestures, speaking through distinctive and interesting synthetic characters in well-crafted sentences and compelling storylines.
When I worked at the airport, I was stuck in neon light all day without being able to see outside. But the noises the planes made when they took off sent subtle vibrations even to my secluded area. Or the overhead noise of trucks bellowing above the concrete ceiling above me. And the endless loop of rhythmic noise the factory line in front of me. All that impressed me a lot and maybe started off my path into regarding noise as music. But that is over 15 years gone by now and today we are much much further. Noise can be fun. Intricate, subtle and of a introverted kind, but humorous nevertheless. And noisy in a weird, quirky, chaotic way.
Chris Jeely never used his Scarcelight-label to make it easy on the listener. From the harsh chaos of (parts) of Accelera Deck’s “Sunstrings”-EP to the “chinchilla audio” of Evol, there is a lot to learn, to digest and to get accustomed to before really being able to get into the music. Now, if you don’t want that, there is no reason you should take that task upon you, because there is no reason to not enjoy music no matter what it is. But if you do, it can be very rewarding in more than one way, believe me.
I remember people saying “I can take about half an hour of Merzbow now, but I am training towards being able to listen to a full CD”, which is stupid. But you can do it anyways, if you like to, I don’t care either way. If you like music and find that the outermost fringes of music really start to interest you, you’ll get here sooner or later. I still enjoy Bob Dylan and I find a growing interest in the old tunes by Randy Newman, Joe Walsh or Joe Jackson, but I am happy (not proud, mind you!) that I can also find the beauty in releases like the ones mentioned above or this one here. Simply because having a lot of options gives you a lot of freedom to chose. And I am not talking about doing the DJ for an evening here. This is true for almost everything in life.
If I had to put “songs of the watchmaker” into a scale of noise to noisiest, which is another stupid idea, but I’ll do it anyway because what do I have to lose, I’d put it a few steps beneath the aforementioned releases. So, if you think, you are on your way to the “top”, “songs of the watchmaker” might come in handy.
The sounds are all easily identified into the harsh noise, electronic noise or noise ambient parts of the musical landscape, but they remain an air of fun, playfulness and vitality around them that is sadly missing in a lot of harsh noise releases. Even the tracks that lean more into a dark ambient direction, like “Family Inharmonic” with its sweeping winds and echoing atmospheres, has that certain twinkle in the eye that gives you a rub on the shoulder and says: “don’t take it too hard, it’ll all get well soon”. Mostly though, there’ll be squirky, chirping sounds, flying around each other, plucking and puckering here and there. From C3PO-sounds (“Squiggle for Sol”) to white noise interferences (“evlmx 15”) to flirring heatwave-sounds (“Audiomata”) can see Wayne Jackson sitting in front of a wardrobe sized computer, pulling knobs and plugs like the mad scientist/musician in a sci-fi-movie from the fifties, which must also be where the zap-gun sounds during “Squiggle for Sol” come from, obviously the trashy sci-fi-track of this record. Insert evil laughter here.
In his playful and creative approach towards noise (some would say it is the drugs, the mushrooms, the leaking gas-stove,… I don’t care where it comes from) Later Days opens an easy introduction. Because no matter how harsh or appalling the sounds objectively are, and would also be if used by other artists, within this context they become softer, less edgy, less extreme and thereby easier to digest. Like medicine rolled in sweet dough.
Another formation featured on Scarcelight is called Later Days. It's one
of the 27 titles released by this American label since it was formed in
2001. Later Days present an album in which a rich diversity of electronic outbursts (reminding of for instance radio tuning), digital crisps and fine tuned electronics play a dominant part. Though one should not understimate the smooth and flowing synth tunes that turn up regularly. The interchange of these different elements makes listening to this album a nice experience. The music is lively, dynamic and features enough variation to keep the listener's attention.
Technical experimentation. Odd gurgles from that old drafting printer in the basement and CAD drawings made into sound, that is my take on what I am hearing here. Widely different from song to song, from tonal shifting tracks with old Star Trek sounds to chopped up pieces of hard drive played on a tape deck. Composed and brought together. Odd shooting stars and what seems inspired my Stephen McGreevy's aurora borealis recordings, these tracks don't sound exactly similar but harken to ghosts in the machine and electrons whizzing by in Tron. I am guessing there is some super heavily processed voice here, sounding nothing like a human except for the intonation of how the attack of the note sounds as if it was heavily vocoded. I don't know how better to describe this, but looking back over the above, it holds up as a way to see this music.
Later Days, aka Wayne Jackson, debuted on Fallt with a 3"CD (part of the 24 3"CD series) and 'Songs Of The Watchmaker' is his full length debut. He is "intrigued by the complexity of emergent systems, both natural and computational", sometimes building his own software. The nine pieces of this CD however do not sound 'computized' at all, I think. It's rather a tribute to the serious electronic avant-garde of forty or so years ago. If it would have said on the cover 'everything composed with analogue synths', I would have easily believed that as well. Sounds swirl in and out in 'Squiggle For Sol' or sound ambientesque in 'Audiomata' - the only easy thing to compare this with is Jack Dangers' recent soundtrack to Forbidden Planet. The pieces do not sound outdated because of the references to old avant-garde, but are rather fresh and vibrant. Warm sci-fi music.
Wayne Jackson likes computers. How else to explain this album of computer generated or machine oriented blips, bleeps, quarks and quirks. The album opens with "Evimx 15" which sounds like a kitchen that is about to explode thanks to Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker. Later on this style returns during "Evimx 6". It's a song/experiment that is difficult to explain unless heard (endured?). Think of a Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music if done by Eno and you might get the gist. Ditto for "Differentiation" although there is more of a rumbling undercurrent to this baby! Throughout there are moments of "music", especially on the haunting, worldly and eerie "Family Inharmonic". "Audiomata" is pushes the boundaries with whirling soundscapes, but generally this is an album that would fit well in a Star Wars film. That is if they were lacking the sound of an inter-galatic internet connection on dial-up.
Sparse... very sparse in fact. Later Days owe a lot to the music konkrete industry. Obscure sound patterns falling in line with glitch and the far outer regions of music that barely scrape onto the IDM circuit. You could say a lot on the disc is ambient, but the main key to this disc is its quietness overall... A bizarre release that is as messed up as it is intelligent, some of the tracks coming across as audio pictures in your head. Its just that those pictures have been done on an etch-a-sketch. Enjoyable and harmless, but nothing outstanding.