Wednesday, August 30, 2006

MARSHALL WATSON: Math And Other Word Problems (Highpoint Lowlife Records)

MARSHALL WATSON
Math And Other Word Problems
HPLL019
Highpoint Lowlife Records 2006
09 Tracks. 47mins52secs





Marshall Watson | Highpoint Lowlife

Seattle-based Marshall Watson returns to the Highpoint Lowlife shore with a second collection of brushed electronic tones and chilled moods. Follow up to The Time Was Later Than He Expected, released almost two years ago, Math And Other Word Problems sees Watson dive deeper into warm melodic electronica to explore a much wider range of soundscapes and atmospheres. While he was at times showing a certain lack of maturity on his debut, this sophomore effort is much more cohesive and mature.

Wrapped in gentle dub, crisp minimal techno and lush electronica, Watson’s compositions become wonderfully fluid and evocative as he punctuates this album with cinematic moments and intricate sequences. All the way through, he alternates between expressive layered soundscapes and more intimate minimal structures to finely balance the general atmospheric tone of the record. From the ambitious setting of the opening track, Invariant, with its faux-airs of soulful pop song and its lethargic groove, to the vast expanses of Ungula, the faint glitch abrasions of The Rules Of False Positions or Pascal’s Triangle or the obsessive frenzy of Parallelagram, Watson constantly refines sounds and atmospheric elements, applying them with infinite precision. This results in Math And Other Word Problems being consistent and flowing well from start to finish.

All throughout though, it is on melodies that Watson focus is. Already a strong feature of his first album, it becomes here even more omnipresent here. But he doesn’t always go for the most obvious, developing instead interesting sidelines underneath layers of sound. This is very much the case on The Law Of Signs and, to a lesser extend, on Parallelagram, where, instead of building the overall sonic structure around the leading melody, he inserts subtle tonal nuances in the background and creates tunes out of very rudimentary components. Elsewhere though, he dares sweeping pastoral escapades (Ungula, Harmonic Analysis Of Periodic Function), acoustic whirlwinds (Imaginary Number) or heartfelt emotions (Pascal’s Triangle).

While Watson’s debut album was a rather promising offering, Math And Other Word Problems steps up the mark and delivers with every track. His focus is much clearer and concise, and the delivery much more polished and full of class.

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