"Lighthousekeeping" begins as a close cousin to "In A Silent Way," in that it deceives the listener into thinking it floats untethered to timekeeping, but it doesn't. It even is based on the same key as Joe Zawuinul's classic, and projects a similar quiet majesty. The notable differences are Nachoff's clarinet, which is allowed to solo around the theme, and Bates' bass pulsing at odd intervals. Even where the piece is unobtrusive and meditative such as this one, Bates continues to challenge the listener to pay attention.
"Bloodletting" harkens back to Bates' hardcore and punk rock days, in attitude if not quite in the literal sense. Underpinned by a menacing 12/8 beat, Nachoff's tenor takes on a tortured, bluesy attack that stands in stark contrast to his approach elsewhere on the album, but this was the right place for bringing out that side of him.
There are four more tracks in this collection, but by now you get the idea: every song doesn't merely present themselves, they unfold in an unconventional, often meandering path. I think Bates is trying to tell us something with that approach, that the path less taken and less direct is often the more interesting one.
It doesn't always work out that way in avant garde jazz, but in the case of Michael Bates' Clockwise it does, every time out. The reason for that doesn't lie solely in Bates' compositions or the improvising capabilities of his band, but both of those things working in tandem.
Clockwise demands your attention but gives back a rich, exciting listening experience in multiples.