We introduce a novel approach to interpreting the well-known spatial correlation of gas densities with on-going star formation. Treated as a closed-loop process involving two physically distinct phases the data can be subdivided into regions that are active and those that are quiescent. The active regions can be distinguished by the presence of high-mass, short-lived, but recently-formed OB stars; the quiescent regions are marked by an absence of these stars and they are considered to be recovering from the last star-formation event and are re-collapsing. The relative (areal) frequencies of those two phases are directly proportional to the relative timescales. For four Local Group galaxies, NGC 6822, the Large & Small Magellanic Clouds, and M33, the cloud assembly/collapse timescales are all found to be monotonically decreasing power-law functions of density, with as yet to be explained differences.