Watt's Happenin'

In 1994, you could hear the collective cry across coffeehouses, bookstores and record shops everywhere: Everything But the Girl is going -- gasp! -- electronic! To them, the duo's Ben Watt and Tracey Thorne had committed musical sin by releasing electronic remixes from their jazzy-acoustic-pop album Walking Wounded.

In 2005, people who still pine for the band's old sound need to get over it -- after all, Watt, solo and with EBTG, has been putting out electronic music for more than a decade now, and he tinkered with the form for a long time before that. Besides, he believes that for careful listeners the leap shouldn't be that huge. "Historically, there's a definite through-line for all the music I've been involved with, a certain mood, a certain pathos that I think is always present, regardless of the instrumentation."

That pathos is evident on the dance track "Pop a Cap in Yo' Ass" from Watt's recent Buzzin' Fly Vol. 2 collection. A bittersweet tale of crime and helpless love intoned by UK MC Estelle, the tense and melancholy vibe is, as Watt describes it, "tendertough." This sort of emotional weight isn't something that's typically associated with dance music.

"It's true that many people just look at dance music as simply this trance-tastic, commercial, commodified thing," says Watt, who serves as A&R man, artist and rep on his Buzzin' Fly dance label. "But as in every form of music, there's the shallow stuff and then there's the deeper stuff for people who are willing to dig."

As far as what deeper stuff you can expect from his upcoming set here on Saturday, Watt, who has never spun in Houston, says our guess is as good as his. "I'm just gonna pack a bag of records and hope I've given myself enough options," he says. "A lot of the job each night is in reading the crowd. I have several sort of 'get out of jail' records at the back of the bag for emergencies, but rest assured that every record I play, I like."

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Scott Faingold