Christoph de Babalon joins the excellent Alter label for an EP of dark and doomy experiments in breakbeats and drum and bass. Babalon's long been canonised for the brilliant If You're Into It, I'm Out of It and here proves that his mix of unsettling ambience and lethal drum patterns is just as potent as ever.
Vinyl 12" £9.49 ALT44
4-track 12" EP on Alter. Edition of 300 copies.
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I’m gonna cut to the chase. Christoph de Babalon is a badass. Active since the mid-90s, it only feels like now he’s truly getting the recognition he deserves. Sure he got a fair amount of kudos at the time but I think it’s fair to say his style of music went out of fashion in the wake of stuff like more extreme visions of splattered breaks i.e breakcore and then later dubstep etc. But still, nobody does it quite like this chap - even Squarepusher and Aphex and their amen and drill and bass exploits don’t manage to exude the darker drama and introspection he imbues into work. The recent reissue of his classic ‘If You're Into It, I'm Out Of It’ was a timely reminder of his vision and production skills, as was the ‘Exquisite Angst’ record on A Colourful Storm, and well, that bumbaclart badman ‘Grim Zenith’ EP on V I S from 2017 I’m still rinsing on a regular basis (one of his finest IMO). So when news of an EP for Luke Younger’s Alter label landed in my inbox, I actually got a, ahem “semi”.
So ‘Hectic Shakes’ is a record teeming with unease, detachment, melancholy, loneliness, gloom and optimism all lurking in the the general atmosphere he conjures in the gaseous, slightly ominous clouds that form the canvas of these tracks, but then they have this polar opposite driving energy of complexly arranged and sequenced breaks and amens. It’s really a revision of jungle/D&B he basically owns. Opener ‘Harakiri’ just kicks with relentless energy in the beats he deploys but in the distance there are almost contemporary classical arcs that give it a real palpable tension. ‘Endless Inside’ sounds like a souped-up McCoy Tyner with six arms, splashing around his kit like an octopus with doomy, droning horns which suggest the arrival of some henchmen from some evil empire. It’s a fine example of the producer's masterful ability to make dark breaks driven music without resorting to cliches or the type of all-out nihilism of olde Venetian Snares, DJ Scud etc. It’s a more subtle, less is more approach to being menacing, ominous, slightly malevolent and yet, paradoxically joyous and kinda forlorn sounding.
‘Shakes and Shivers’ has some particularly satisfying bass drops, his drums, in particular, are exceptionally well put together and sound intricately programmed as opposed to ripped and looped from a sample pack. I can totally imagine this firing at me out of a massive earth quaking rig in almost pure darkness, save for a strobe and some dry and ice and I’d be totally blissed. Last tune ‘Raw Mind’ begins chillingly lush and emotive for the first couple of mins before he unleashes a perfectly timed array of limb tangling beats and bass drops, and then, well, it’s heads down, skanking with tears in my eyes. Highly recommended.
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