(07.13.06) Routes is a travelogue, a record of places and destinations that crackles and pops with the urgency of perpetual motion (check in, check out, get on a plane, take a boat trip). The eighteen tracks of Kilowatt’s latest (some are ambient field recordings of conveyances) seamlessly flow as a fascinating aural trip that isn’t the sort normally put together by your local travel agent. Mixing glitch and complex programming with warm downtempo and psychedelic loops, static and the sound of the rails with boarding announcements and lilting
melodies, Kilowatts takes all the stress out of travel.
“Palo Duro” lies somewhere deep in the techno heart of modern Germany, a pulsating factory town filled that has thrown off the dusty proletariat shackles of the last century and had abandoned itself to the hedonistic groove of an electrified age. Minimal techno beats churn over a rave-up of girlish voices while reverb tones leave damp echos as synth stabs perform an undulating fan dance of electronic titillation. “Subway” arcs us across metropolitan boroughs, clicking and flexing with a futuristic groove, a Kundalini snake rhythm that matches the rolling percussion of the trains. Hiccups and catches in the sound allow for the injection of melodic parts into the mix as if the car is start-stopping for more passengers.
Shuffling snares, darting electronic squiggles and warm synth chords create a playful mood for “An Explanation,” a fuzzed bit of insouciance that settles in like a three piece band brought in by the airline to play the lounge when weather has delayed every flight for the next decade or so. No one is getting anywhere, anytime soon. So you all might as well have a couple of drinks—free, at the bar, right here! with a paper umbrella!—kick back and let the band entertain you. Stewardesses are kicking off their pedestrian heels and letting down their hair as they take to the dance floor en masse. With its writhing glitch and off-kilter rhythms, “Safety In Numbers” turns the packed dance floor into a slow-moving mass of accidental humanity. Elbows and shoulders brush, voices connect, eyes meet. The breakbeat climax sends hearts in a frenzy — new routes are planned, new destinations chosen, rendezvous are agreed upon.
“Trans-Atlantic” is a bit of bowed ambience that gurgles and shuffles with distant percussion like stewards flushing toilets in time on a lower floor. A heavily distorted voice intrudes into the soporific chime tone melody. You can try to make out words in the voice, but the Captain’s been inhaling the same stuff you’ve been and his words aren’t much more than ambient scatterings. “Chinatown Bus” is the most god-damned peaceful bus ride I’ve ever heard and its tiny microtonal graduations evolve into “What Are We Listening To?” Well, it turns into a lumbering downtempo piece that never truly lets go of its pebbled patter of light rhythms.
I’m not sure you even need to pack a suitcase to enjoy Routes. You’ll probably need your passport and a good set of headphones. Kilowatts offers a lifetime of travel compressed into an hour of aural head-tripping. Ease the seat back on this one. Highly recommended.
Routes is out now on Artificial Music Machine. (Buy it at Amazon.com)