The night plays tricks on everyone. With wobbling sounds, with lame lights and shadows. The first scene of Kentucky Route Zero is where our eyes talk with the ears of a blind man. It clearly shows the world split into two layers existing together and overlapping each other. Out of place and out of time. The place is just around Kentucky and the time is around the 80s’. Everything’s around being real. We have a goal – to reach 5 Dogwood Drive with a delivery of antiques. It soon turns out that the only way to get there is to drive a mysterious highway, the Zero. But, are we at the starting point or we’re just chunked in the flowing time? Are we chasing someone or no one’s there?
Out of place and out of time.
Everything’s off and everything fits together at the same time when we travel through the confusion with Ben Babbitt, the composer, and the artists he collaborated with. These artists are like different road signs – they stand on each turn of our way and mark it perfectly, shifting the mood. Ben Babbitt serves a double duty here. He’s a solo ambient music creator, and a vocalist in a trio band, The Bedquilt Ramblers – with Emily Cross (also vocals) and Bob Buckstaff (upright bass). They stand aside like American folk’s bards and comment on everything with their bluegrass music playing folk traditionals (What Would You Give). While in-game we mostly see them in the shade, but it’s very likely that they play a toptable game in the first scene.
There is an intense retro feeling attached to every track (Un Pueblo De Nada sounds like an old film) and the 80s’ weave in and out the entire album. A good example is a synth song with female vocals by Junebug (Too Late To Love You). As opposed to this, by the end of the album there’s a very raw moment performed acapella by a bunch of artists, including Ben Babbitt (I’m Going That Way, also one of early country standards).
On the other hand, Ben Babbitt, as a solo artist, delivers amazing, hallucinogenic ambient music. Yes, he literally creates an environment, pulls us deeper towards it, and closes us inside. He mostly uses synths, but in a really immersive way. Take a look at Riverworld – I right away feel like a fish in a wild river, in the touchable chaos of water flowing roughly. Same goes for Angel Wings with the feeling of the speed of wind on the skin or The Clearing where an acoustic guitar weeps gently at night until it leaves us alone at the riverbank. Even in more elusive pictures, Babbitt sets the mood easily – he creates a creepily happy place in Nameless Interiors, plays with the 80s’ in Hold Music and goes relaxing in Dark Rum Noir.
There’s a paranoiac feeling of being scrutinised by the night and the place itself.
Altogether, it’s like an odd road trip through the dark forest of delusions with tiny streams of the light slipping through leaves. The light usually brings hope, but here it only brings illusions. There’s a paranoiac feeling of being scrutinised by the night and the place itself, like a lone rover who listens carefully to each little sound around trying to figure things out. In some way, it’s a quite similar place to the one we find ourselves in during Riders On The Storm by The Doors – the place that is calm and dangerous at once. And at the end of the day we’re not sure whether the place was real or not, but we’re sure the feelings brought by the music were.