|Christoph De Babalon|
|IF YOU’RE INTO IT, I’M OUT OF IT|
Christoph De Babalon — If You’re Into It, I’m Out of It (Our Maliseet Songs)
Location: Hamburg, Germany
Album release: September 8, 1997
Record Label: Digital Hardcore
01 Opium 15:29
02 No Step 3:38
03 Expressure 5:01
04 What You Call a Life 5:00
05 Water 4:39
06 Brilliance 7:10
07 Dead (Too) 6:10
08 Damaged III 4:29
09 Release 4:26
10 High Life (Theme) 11:05
11 My Confession 9:53
by Philip Sherburne, FEBRUARY 7 2018; Score: 8.4 (Best new reissue)
→ The timing couldn’t be better to reissue Christoph De Babalon’s brooding, groundbreaking album If You’re Into It, I’m Out of It. Ambient music is enjoying a widespread boom, dark drum ‘n’ bass has come back into vogue, and De Babalon’s record remains one of the few to successfully combine both styles. More than that, the German musician’s apocalyptic album is the perfect tonic for a moment in which the symbolic Doomsday Clock has literally ticked closer to midnight. The patron saint of gloom Thom Yorke has called it “the most menacing record I own.”
→ Some intimidating music becomes less so as it ages. Once~radical techniques become common~place; every year, a new contender arrives with a sound that’s a little faster, a little louder, a little meaner. But De Babalon’s blistering breaks and mythic drones have maintained their power — perhaps, in part, because they were so crude and unusual to begin with. Sullen and misanthropic, his music refused to play anyone else’s game. Twenty~one years later, revisiting the album is like stumbling upon a remote island disconnected from the rest of the world.
→ If You’re Into It, I’m Out of It wasn’t necessarily an obvious fit for Digital Hardcore Records when it was originally released in 1997. Alec Empire, leader of the band Atari Teenage Riot, had launched the label in the mid~1990s as a platform for savage breakcore couched in punk~rock bluster and guerrilla chic. Early Digital Hardcore records were emblazoned with AK~47s and Uzis; Atari Teenage Riot’s aesthetic, mashing up thrash guitars with gabber drums and lots of shouted sloganeering (“Start the Riot!”; “Kids Are United!”; “Cyberpunks Are Dead!”), suggested a rave~era take on political punks Nation of Ulysses. De Babalon’s album, on the other hand, opens with “Opium,” a 15~and~a~half~minute swath of slowly cycling foghorn drones, church bells, and dubbed~out cries. It is at once terrifying and strangely comforting: druggy as its title, with a sub~bass buzz evocative of distant airplanes. There are surface similarities to Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, released a few years prior, but where that record is blissfully eerie, “Opium” is filled with dread. To put it right up front like that was a bold move, a way of saying that punk hadn’t cornered the market on confrontation; slow, gelatinous sounds could also grab you by the lapels and shake the daylights out of you.
→ The ravers who stuck it out through “Opium” got their reward with the next track. With “Nostep,” we’re back to sounds steeped in the renegade parties where De Babalon cut his teeth. This is the meat of the record: banger after banger, a succession of face~punching breakbeats wrapped up in haywire synths and suffused in foggy wrongness. “Expressure” juggles impish acid squelch with rolling, blown~out snares and tabla. “What You Call a Life” is a kind of chopped~and~screwed jungle, with slowed~down breaks bristling like the hairs on a dog’s back. “Water,” the evil peak of the album’s first half, is a 188~BPM volley of exploding breaks over queasy drones reminiscent of avant~garde atonalist composers Xenakis or Ligeti; it sounds like a full~scale assault on the gates of hell.
→ Unlike most of the era’s jungle and drum ‘n’ bass, there’s very little funk beyond what’s hardwired into the sampled drums; remnants of dub reggae remain in the form of truncated bass blasts, but they might as well be fossilized footprints embedded in weathered stone. The low end, while voluminous, is mostly a trick of the mix, spreading out beneath rattling snares and cymbals like a shadow or a bloodstain. And unlike more dancefloor~oriented drum ‘n’ bass, these tracks don’t really develop much beyond their perfunctory intros and periodic breakdowns. They stretch from end to end like brick walls topped with broken glass. There is always more going on than the ear can discern; the amount of information packed into any given bar is almost overwhelming. Trying to pick out a given detail — the ice~pick clank of “Dead (Too),” or the banshee wails of “Water” — is like trying to read someone’s wristwatch as he drives his car into a wall.
→ De Babalon revisits the murky, beatless atmospheres of “Opium” twice more on the 77~minute album. “Brilliance” layers looped string samples in a shifting moiré that’s not unlike what Wolfgang Voigt was pursuing in his ambient GAS project around the same time. “High Life (Theme)” comes close to the bleak perfection of “Opium.” Slowed~down drones are looped, layered, and fed through gentle delay until they lap like black waves against the midnight shore. Subtle micro~tunings play tricks on the brain, creating new tones out of harmonic collisions. Here you can really hear the reissue’s improved sound, which is the handiwork of the celebrated Berlin mastering engineer Rashad Becker. Space has opened up; two dimensions have become three. But it’s still rough around the edges, lo~fi by design, jealously guarding its secrets beneath a faint patina of digital hiss. It goes on like that for 11 minutes, a lonely outpost of musique concrète, desolate as a ghost town, every bit as eerie as it sounded two decades ago. If You’re Into It, I’m Out of It proved unnecessarily wary: No one has ever made another record quite like this one. → https://pitchfork.com/
Artist Biography by Andy Kellman
→ Likely due to his lack of bold image, Hamburg~based Christoph de Babalon was somewhat lost in the shuffle of his Digital Hardcore peers, crafting a varying array of largely instrumental tracks that either increase heart rates on the dancefloor or distort the senses in the bedroom. Regardless of his aims, his productions always favored simplicity over complexity and enjoyed a healthy love of doomed cragginess. De Babalon first gained exposure in 1994 for his I Own Death EP, which landed in the top ten of BBC DJ John Peel’s year~end list. Peel’s continued support did nothing to damage de Babalon’s “one to watch” status through a clutch of EPs on his own Cross Fade Enter Tainment imprint and Digital Hardcore; his debut LP, If You’re Into it, I’m Out of It was released in 1997.
|Christoph De Babalon|
|IF YOU’RE INTO IT, I’M OUT OF IT|