Ever since Christoph de Babalon’s now classic 90’s ambient jungle breakbeat manifesto “If You’re Into It, I’m Out Of It” reemerged 5 years ago via a vinyl reissue on de Babalon’s own CFET imprint, a new wave of fans arose to greet the work with heralding praise.
After cultivating his own sound for over 30 years, de Babalon has continually expanded his sonic trajectory throughout the last few years via a series of noteworthy release on labels such as Alter, A Colorful Storm and AD 93. Now he presents his most encompassing album to date via Vale, an hour long phantasmagoric onslaught showcasing the full spectrum of de Babalon’s radical, menacing and inimitable style.
One thing that becomes clear from the get-go when diving into Vale, is that it’s imbued with an air of restraint and forbearance, underscored by the many languishing voices and opaque, ominous ambient passages. These include the collaborative two piece ‘Arrethan’ with Polish singer and producer Antonina Nowacka, who previously made waves with her uncanny yet divine choral songs on her own album ‘Lamunan’, as well as pieces like ‘Good Morning, You Worm’, 'Demon Glue’ and ‘Denn Sie Sind Hünen’ which verge from the blissfully eerie to being suspended in a shadowy realm governed by sinister resonance.
Vale’s titular mid-point piece ‘I, Like Him (A Dream)’ showcases de Babalon’s at his most resourceful. Here a staccato of voices mutter in quick succession, (“I wish I could be like him! ugh..”) over an epiphany of nervous flutes and stumbling percussion, before finally dislodging into a cascade of glorious high flung volleys, like a deeply poignant, absurdist daydream come to life in full motion.
Where past albums have pushed de Babalon’s sound to its extremes, Vale is defined by its delicate balance between restraint and release. That is not to say it lacks any of the intimidating breakbeat onslaughts de Babalon has come to be known for. With the albums later pieces such as ‘I Pruned the Cat’ and ‘Pechvogel’ serving up unrelenting hardcore workouts, before reaching a fever peak on the album’s closer ‘Never Die’.
On Vale, de Babalon manages to showcase harmonic collisions that feel as bleak as they are bolstering. And herein lies the album’s true marvel; its rebellious nature, which dances between the lines of submissive dejection and revolting glee, offers us a captivating reflection of de Babalon himself – at a time when it seems like the entire world is marred between opposing forces and drowning in a surmounting sea of turmoil, submission, at least for him, is not an option.
CdB’s creative 2nd wind continues to blow away the breakcore shackles and reveal a tempestuous, gothic avant-classical spirit under the hood with a magisterial new opus ft. operatic vox by Antonina Nowacka
While the vestiges of Christoph de Babalon’s mucky ‘90s birth in breakcore still litter ‘Vale’, the album presses on along vectors of horror cinematic invention that have broodingly defined his return to the fray over the past decade. The skeletal breaks are now often suppressed, slower and splayed, taking a backseat to arrangements of sampled instrumentation, synthetic bass, and the soaring vocal theatrics of Antonina Nowacka, who was a crucial presence as part of WIDT in their CdB collaboration ‘Teyas’ (2018). Ultimately the sound feels more grown up from the goth-punkish nature and rhetoric of albums such as his classic ‘If You’re Into It, I’m Out of It’, moving on from bedsit glower to full haunted house or raved-out abandoned Victorian asylum situation.
This reissue & augmentation of KMRU's 2020 Drawing Water EP on Vaagner is a welcome reminder of the hypnotic minimalism & translucent ambient charm of the original. On the flipside Abul Mogard reimagines the three original tracks huddled together beneath Berlin winter's unyielding cloud, yet despite the chill & low light the beauty is evident. TheSlowMusicMovement