"Eye Spy" is the first peek at a lurking evil. There's an EBM-ish grumble about the synths' sinewy churn, and the drums thud like deadweights. Wedged between the breezy "Sunshine" and the dubbed-out IDM balm of "Mr Stewart"—two typically elevating Claro Intelecto tracks—"Eye Spy" sounds particularly grim. "Guardian Angel" smashes through the place like a wrecking ball. Like "A Nightmare Before Bedtime," it has kids' voices, murky atmospheres and pulverising kicks, but the pads help take the edge off, soaking up some of the aggression. "Ageless Eyes" is just as heavy, though, again, Stewart lightens the mood with quirky touches—this time, creaky woodwinds, more dream pads and wonky bass chords. "Amino Acid" pitches and rolls through some of the LP's screwiest bass oscillations. These tracks are the stars of Exhilarator, and some of Stewart's finest work to date.
Compared with the sleekness of Reform Club, Exhilarator is a bumpy ride. The LP has clear standouts, but also quieter, more reflective moments that allow its experimental side to shine, like the midsection haze (via "Portrait" and "Pantomime") of melancholic chords and aching strings. Later on, Stewart goes dark again, crafting sinister results with the slinking "Slither - The Way Home." He's always been a diverse producer, dabbling in all sorts—from the electro of his breakout EP, Peace Of Mind, to the airy ambient and denser club works of more recent material. Exhilarator shows off Stewart's range—and aptitude for risk-taking—like no LP of his before.