Kilo Watts: Routes
Artificial Music Machine

KiloWatts undertakes a more than credible foray into Warp-styled IDM on Routes , an 18-track travelogue by Philadelphia-based Jamie Watts. Packaging the material in such a thematic manner proves a wise move as it gives what might have seemed a disparate collection a cohesive feel. Sequencing and song titles reinforce the travelogue concept (“Cross Country,” “Trans-Atlantic,” “Eastward”) while footsteps, announcers' voices, and subtle traces of subways, buses, highways, and trains in field-heavy interludes (“Market-Frankford Line,” “I-95,” “Chinatown Bus”) establish convincing evocations of locale.

Watts keeps things fresh by exploiting contrasts of mood and style throughout, ensuring that for every uptempo piece, a downtempo one follows. “Subway” barrels forth with a pulsating urgency and “Safety In Numbers” slams and sputters in a punchy electro-dub-funk style; conversely, soul-jazz melodies grease the laconic shuffle of “An Explanation” while “Eastward” unfurls in a dramatic piano-laden lope. “Glob Story” conjures a disorientating ambiance, with the traveler perhaps adrift in an unfamiliar city and besieged by an over-abundance of stimuli, while “Trans-Atlantic” drifts into reverie when not lurching heavily forward. Similarly, a propulsive Plaid-like intertwine of snarling synth melodies produces a whirring maelstrom in “Palo Duro,” in contrast to “Theologue (Settle)” where softly glimmering melodies and melancholy piano playing bring the trip to a peaceful end. Though not stylistically innovative, Routes compensates for its lack of musical originality with the thoroughness of its thematic conception and the technical polish of its execution.

September 2006