In 2020 the Düsseldorf-native musician, producer, remixer and mastering engineer Stefan Betke looks back on a steady 22-year career in abstract electronic club music. In particular, the seven albums that he released during this period under the Pole moniker have lastingly shifted the coordinates of electronica.

Beginning with his dark blue debut album “1” from 1998, Pole laid a foundation of bass, dub and a defective pole filter as the point from which to explore and implement new sonic architectures. Up until the turn of the millennium, these expeditions grew into a trilogy of albums entitled “1”, “2” and “3”, appearing in the colors blue, red and yellow.

The three albums are now considered milestones of electronic music and celebrate their 20th year of existence in 2020!

In 2007 pole released his album “Steingarten” on ˜scape Records followed by “Wald” in 2015. This was the first release on his on pole´s own imprint and inspired by long walks through various forests. “With previous albums, the city was that forest. Inspiration came mainly from a walk through Berlin, London or Manhattan, where I could hear or see or read something and then understand that it is possible to implement this into my work.”

On “Wald” it is manifested, for example, in raw sounds and in psychedelic structures which sound as if they might be guitars (but are actually distorted synthetic lines). The compositions “Wald” do not deny their inheritance within the continuum of Dub, yet they bring an entirely new vocabulary to Pole’s sonic and spatial universe.

“A common factor in all the releases was that they all originated in a kind of dub continuum. Melodies have never been my motivation – they were always more peripheral. But across those albums, the reverbs and the bass lines were always related and interlinked with each other. By working that way, I didn’t feel as if I was under any artificial pressure, and I could allow things to end loosely in order to continue my work.”

This very free way of working was reinforced when Stefan Betke, together with Barbara Preisinger, created the label ˜scape Records in 1999. Soon afterwards he opened his own mastering studio scape-mastering. (The previous Pole records had been released on the Hamburg label Kiff SM, and Betke worked as an engineer for CD mastering and vinyl cutting at Dubplates & Mastering in Berlin until 2000).

˜scape Records developed into a reservoir for contemporarily relevant excursions in dub, electronica and jazz. Numerous releases by Jan Jelinek, Deadbeat, Kit Clayton, Pole and many others – and not least the “Staedtizism” compilation series – continued the progressive narrative of electronic music until 2010, when Preisinger and Betke decided to bring ˜scape Records to its conclusion.

Betke continues to operate the scape studio, in which he has not only produced his own music, but also a considerable number of remixes for a diverse range of artists including Trentemøller, Appliance, Louis Armstrong, Roll The Dice, and The Orb feat. Lee Perry. In the same studio, Betke has also mastered countless tracks and albums for CD and vinyl.

The fact that over the years Pole has released on four labels – Kiff SM, ˜scape Records, Mute Records and Pole (the label) – has never harmed the consistency of those releases. Although it was with the now-legendary, defective Waldorf 4-Pole filter that Pole initially realized his signature sound, over the years Pole emerged as a sonic architect who increasingly drew from internal sources – finding inspiration in the city as well as in nature.

The urban canyons of New York or the broad avenues of Berlin, the mountains and valleys with their echoes, the meditative forests, the above, below and beyond, as well as the horizon – offset by the verticals of trees and buildings – became a sort of matrix for Pole, within which he could hone a very specific poetry of reverberation with unmatched virtuosity.

Pole increasingly presented this through live performances, in which the elements of improvisation and the erratic development of his own music played an equally constant and central role. Pole performed in small clubs and on the biggest festival stages and over the years he has built up a large international fan base. Pole: “I work on my music with patience, without paying heed to trends and fashions. I write my music outside of the timeline of electronic music.

With the precision of a structural engineer and the confident intuition of one who can hear sound where previously there was silence, Pole goes to the concrete cellars, open-air stages and nightclubs in his path and busts them open from the inside out. The fact that Steve Reich and Arnold Schoenberg, John Zorn, Arto Lindsay and Fred Frith stand alongside Jamaica and Lee Perry as important influences for the professed minimalist has so far neither hurt the energy-discharging potential of his concerts nor the stringent, reductive simplicity of his albums.

At the same time, Pole has always been open to various shorter and longer term collaborations with other musicians, such as Four Tet, Roll The Dice or the American rapper Fat Jon. In other words: Over the long period of 22 years, Pole has been able to maintain a consistently high level of concentration, not only daring to experiment, but also to release the results – for example, with the 2003 album “Pole” (Mute Records), which features the vocals of Fat Jon. For an entire album, it became evident how it can sound when the human voice and Pole’s unique echo chamber enter into a dialogue. In retrospect, this journey away from instrumental music can be viewed as a singular detour. Throughout these various collaborations, Pole has maintained a head-on approach to the discourse at hand – permanently refocusing a restless mind.

Above all, it is thus ensured that the Pole narrative will continue to be written and his musical vocabulary will continue to expand – in dub.

Author: Max Dax

POLE Discographie:   
12“ TanzenKiff SM/PIASbetke edition/BMG UFA98
CD/LP 1Kiff SM/PIASbetke edition/BMG UFA98
12“ RaumDIN Recordsbetke edition/BMG UFA98
CD/LP 2Kiff SM/PIASbetke edition/BMG UFA99
12“ RondellKiff SM/PIASbetke edition/BMG UFA00
CD/LP 3Kiff SM/PIASbetke edition/BMG UFA00
CD/LP Rscapebetke edition/BMG UFA01
7“ Mein Freund der Baum/Alexandrapole feat Manou Monika Ent. 02
12“/CD 45/45Mutescape publishing/ BMG UFA03
12“/CD 90/90Mutescape publishing/ BMG UFA03
CD/LP „pole“Mutescape publishing/ BMG UFA03
12“ D.P. KrakauEchochordscape publishing/ BMG UFA06
CD/LP „steingarten“˜scapescape publishing/ BMG UFA07
3 CD “1 2 3”˜scapescape publishing09
12” “Alles Gute/Alles Klar”˜scapescape publishing08
12” “waldgeschichten” polescape publishing / Mute Song11
12” “waldgeschichten 2” polescape publishing / Mute Song11
12” “waldgeschichten 3” polescape publishing / Mute Song12
12” “Roll The Dice Meets Pole – In Dubs”leaf recordsscape publishing / Mute Song 13
 CD/LP “wald” polescape publishing / Mute Song15
CD/LP “Conrad Schnitzler & Pole – Construct”polebureau b17
CD/LP “fading”Mutescape publishing / Mute Song20
12” “tanzboden”Mutescape publishing / Mute Song21
CD/LP “tempus”Mutescape publishing / Mute Song22


Compilations (excerpts):

Deutscher FunkCaipirinha Musikbetke edition/BMG UFA97
Freestyle FilesStudio !K7betke edition/BMG UFA98
Pop 2000EMI Electrolabetke edition/BMG UFA99
Sonar Festival 99Sonar Musicbetke edition/BMG UFA99
Clicks& CutsMille Plateauxbetke edition/BMG UFA99
Diverse PromotionDiversebetke edition/BMG UFA97/98
Cashier Escape RoutesCityCenterOficesbetke edition/BMG UFA00
XarthybridOffenbarbetke edition/BMG UFA00
StaedtizismScapebetke edition/BMG UFA00
Pole vs Four TetLeafbetke edition/BMG UFA00
Ocean Club presents STUMMMUTE NIGHTVolksbühnenr.Betke edition/BMG UFA01
Pop 2001MME/Warnerbetke edition/BMG UFA01
NighteffectsWMF Recordsbetke edition/BMG UFA01
Komfort Lab vs.scapeWMF Recordsbetke edition/BMG UFA01
Sonar Festival 03Sonar Musicbetke edition/BMG UFA03
DIN AV DVDscapescape publishing/BMG UFA04
Futurism Ain´t shit to meKitty Yoscape publishing/BMG UFA05
Round Black Ghosts˜scapescape publishing08
Round Black Ghosts 2˜scapescape publishing09
Remixes (excerpts):   
Various Artist No 9.5Fatcat 98
Mike ParadinasCajualu zique98
Quarks WiederkommMonika ent./Plug Research 98
Lobi Traore SayoF Communication 99
Biophilia Allstars No Movement, No Sound, No MemoriesLux Nigra 99
Egoexpress DurchbrechenX Filme (Absolute Giganten) 99
Laub GrauKitty Yo 99
Appliance Heroes of TelemarkMute 99
Pole vs Four Tet CloadLeaf 00
Charged CorneredR&S 00
Fauna Flash TenCompost 00
Atom tm Pentatonic SurpriseQuatermass 01
Station 17 Jesus hat gesagtMute 01
Depeche Mode CarmatoseMute 01
T.Raumschmiere A Million BrothersMute 03
Louis ArmstrongUniversal 03
Carl Douglas Kung Fu FightingEcho Beach 04
Ferdinand Fehlers HeartsMeteosound 05
John Tejada MonoPalette 06
Shackleton Shortwave˜scape / Skull isco 08
Trentmøller Miss youAudiomatique 08
Mantis DecompositionBlack Smoker Records 16
Freund der Familie CRMFreund der Familie21
Produced (excerpts):   
Quarks KöniginMonika Ent. 99 CD
B.Morgenstern FjordenMonika Ent. 00 CD
Zigaretten Rauchen MännerSony 00 7“
A.Nolte 21st Century  
Schizoid man, or how to lose your headscape 01
B.Morgenstern Nichts MussLabels/Monika Ent. 03 CD
Contriva if you had stayedMonika 03 CD
T.Raumschmiere Monstertruck DriverMute 04 CD
T.Raumschmiere BlitzkriegPop Mute 05 CD
Berlin HouseViva 99 D
Pioneers Channel 4Lee Perry, Brian Eno and moreBBC00 UK
Die Stadt ist ProgrammIn BerlinTVB00 D
Lola Da MusicaMan Machine VPRO 00 N
LevisRub yourself MTV Europe 02 Europe