Cinematic jungle and ambient noir on this punchy compilation of '90s cuts.
What many would encounter as despair De Babalon feels instead as "Some sort of melancholic longing. A sea of tears, a universe of sadness, a romantic apocalypse." That's clearest on the smog-filled ambient of "Alpenglühen," whose bitter strings crack with yearning and regret. "Meditate"'s choir vocals and birds-of-paradise ambience summon a similarly tainted beauty. But more often than not, Exquisite Angst is squalid stuff. "Realistic Riot Ritual Routine"'s vocal sample—"use minimum force at all times to keep order"—sounds like a line from a police ethics manual, which is followed by harsh breaks that seem to mock that call to restraint. "Kirchengänger"'s breathless drums and sour cello strings bring to mind a life-or-death sprint through a piss-slicked alley.
The overlap between Exquisite Angst and If You're Into It, I'm Out Of It, De Babalon's revered 1997 LP, is pretty clear. The decayed sound, the self-possessed attitude, the regal nihilism—Exquisite Angst, even at 36-minutes long, has plenty of that. You might have noticed the two windows on the sleeve, and which one De Babalon is stood by. A few shafts of light make it onto Exquisite Angst, too. "Leave Me In The Autumn"'s woodsy synth leads and live-sounding kit are surprisingly tender. If "Valediction"'s Don't DJ-esque flute lines and synth voices seem to express relief, the eerie mood implies that it might have come at a heavy cost. It's no happy ending, but in a "universe of sadness" it's close enough.