tanzboden

format: 12inch vinyl / digital
label: mute records
cat.#: MUTE630
release date: aug 13th 2021

Tracklisting:
1. Tanzboden (6:36)
2. Rost (6:02)

The new track originates from a series of loops created during the recording sessions for his first new album for Mute in over 15 years, Fading, which was released in November 2020. Fading was about loss of memory and how memory disappears over the years as we grow older, and these loops were discovered when Betke had returned to the original recordings. He explains, “I began working in my Berlin Studio, doing research and listening to the single recording sessions of Fading to remember what I did exactly and to find out what I think about the recording months after finishing it.”

Stefan Betke continues, Tanzboden is an old fashioned word for a dancefloor constructed during the harvest time, mostly outdoors, and Rost is the German word for rust which is an interesting connection to Tanzboden. If the dancefloor is not really used for a long time anymore it starts to rust, and as the screws and metal plates which are holding the wooden parts together disappear slowly over the years, so does the Tanzboden itself.”

The two tracks both link back to Fading and at the same time mark the beginning of new recordings. “Listening to them with a new album in mind, I liked them even better!”

Tanzboden was released August 13th 2021: https://mute.ffm.to/tanzboden

fading

format: 12inch vinyl / cd/ digital
label: mute records
cat.#: STUMM458
release date: nov 6th 2020

Tracklisting:
1. Drifting (8:36)
2. Tangente (5:08)
3. Erinnerung (6:44)
4. Traum (6:10)
5. Tölpel (4:26)
6. Röschen (6:12)
7 Nebelkrähe (7:54)
8. Fading (5:31)

“Unfortunately there’s not a new piece of gear that broke making this album,” laughs Stefan Betke. “I don’t think that will ever happen again.”

Betke is referring to the origins of Pole and how accidentally dropping and breaking a Waldorf 4-Pole filter gave birth to both the name and distinct sound of his solo electronic project.
His opening trilogy of albums 1,2,3 were a benchmark moment in electronic music, with him seamlessly traversing across glitch, dub, minimal techno, ambient and electronica. Reissued by Mute earlier this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary, the trilogy reaffirmed its game-changing status in contemporary music. In their 5* review, The Observer called it “calming, abstract, minimal genius.”

To neatly solidify this year of Pole, Betke is also back with a new album Fading – his first since 2015’s Wald. As with every new Pole record, it’s part of a continued forward trajectory but it also connects to a pre-existing sonic framework. “Every Pole record connects to recordings that I’ve made before,” Betke says. “In order to stay in this kind of vertical development. The ideas from 1,2,3 up to now are connected. I keep the interesting elements, languages and vocabulary that I designed and add new elements.”

The idea of exploring one’s own history is also loosely linked to the inspiration for this record. “The album was mostly inspired by the idea of memory loss,” he says. “My mum had dementia and I saw her losing all the memory that she had accumulated over her 91 long years. When losing that memory it turned into what she was probably like in the beginning of her life when she was born – like an empty box.”

A concept album this is not however. The role of memory loss and his mother was simply a springboard for Betke, an idea to further explore through sound. “It was the motor for moving in this direction,” he says. “So for the opening track, ‘Drifting’, there is the idea of a whole lifespan that starts pretty empty and it gets fuller and then it ends with this kind of bell sound in the background. Or ‘Fading’, the last track, deals with the idea of fading away and disappearing slowly. But you always leave something. You leave a feeling or an image or an atmosphere. Everybody who lives leaves something on this earth.”

This approach gave Betke the opportunity to reconnect with his own memory and past. “You can hear some little pops and glitches in the background of this recording, which is a direct reference to the trilogy,” he says. “But you hear it relatively quietly in the background, it’s not really too heavily featured. This is a little bit of a sign from me, as my history is fading away slowly too.”  

However, much like the subtlety of Betke’s past can be heard hissing and popping away like a faraway echo, the idea behind this album is to be considered more of an inspirational underpinning than a set-in-stone theme. Pole’s music has always been multifaceted, blurring lines, genres, tones and Fading is no different. ‘Tölpel’ melds immersive crackles with bass-heavy beats, ‘Tangente’ unfurls via subtle yet unpredictable pulses, whilst ‘Nebelkrähe’ manages to simultaneously feel intimate and richly warm yet also endlessly airy and spacious. “’Nebelkrähe’ is really one of my favourites because it is so heavy but has so many details in the background,” Betke says. “It also probably has the most direct connection to the trilogy.”

Due to the multifaceted nature of Betke, the end result is an album that feels as suited for immersive headphone listening as it does to being pummelled out through a PA loud enough to feel the bass rattle your ribcage. This has always been key for Pole. “Whenever I compose a piece of music it has to have this element to it,” he says. “I need to be able to listen to it in the car when I go to the seaside or in my living room or in a club. The main idea is to make music that is multifunctional. From the beginning onwards, that was always the idea.”

As someone who also runs a mastering studio for disc cutting and digital mastering
(scapemastering), the tone of the album was understandably something Betke spent a lot of time on. “I think it’s a really warm-sounding record,” he says. “I go really deep into the sound design. I was very focused on the depth of it. Instead of having 15 four-minute tracks I was more into focusing on 8 long pieces that actually sink in. I wanted to fill your head up with atmospheric sounds. I really try to avoid overloading the tracks. It has to be on this thin edge between just enough information to keep things interesting but not too many ideas that it gives the impression it could be two separate tracks.”

Pole may have begun life with the embrace of an accident but over the years it has morphed and transitioned into a finely tuned and honed project with a deft yet potent sense of evolution. However, accidents are still something to be cherished in Betke’s world; the striking artwork for the album being a prime example.  “During a super heavy thunderstorm my TV broke down and I couldn’t see anything for 10 minutes,” he says. “As my screen was trying to recover it looked very strange. Immediately I felt the need to get my camera. I took hundreds of pictures and when I was going through the photos I saw these three where there are people coming into the image and fading out at the end. They look like oil paintings, and the fading away process is remade in the trilogy of these photos.”

So the presentation of the final album merges a perfect blend of considered craft with an unpredictable accident – much like the trilogy that started all this off.  “I have a sense for mistakes,” he says. “I see a mistake coming. It was the same with the broken filter all those years ago. Everybody said, get this fucking thing repaired, it doesn’t do anything’. I said, ‘no, no, no, no’”.

Fading was released by Mute on 6 November 2020: https://mute.ffm.to/Fading

lurch (version)

format: 7 inch vinyl / digital
cat.#: PL14
release date: 29.01.2016

Tracklisting:
a: lurch (version) (3:49)
b: lurch (version – peder mannerfelt remix) (4:20)

A Limited 7″ release by POLE including a remix by PEDER MANNERFELT!

After his album „WALD“ pole releases a version of his track „Lurch“ which was available as bonus download track in Japan only.

The flip side includes an exceptional stripped to the bones remix by Peder Mannerfelt (Roll The Dice, Subliminal Kid)
Limited to 300 copies!

wald

format: double 12inch / CD / digital
cat.#: PL13
release date: sept 11th 2015

Tracklisting:
Akt 1:
1. Kautz (5:23)
2. Salamander (4:44)
3. Moos (live) (6:46)

Akt 2:
4. Myzel (6:05)
5. Wurzel (live)(5:40)
6. Aue (live) (6:01)

Akt 3:
7: Käfer (5:21)
8. Fichte (4:23)
9. Eichelhäher (4:55)

The vinyl version includes a free Digital Download Code.

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“Wald” begins immediately, ends abruptly, and is divided into three acts over three tracks. It is the first studio album under Stefan Betke’s Pole moniker for eight years – not counting the three 12″ EPs under the title “Waldgeschichten” (released in 2011/2012 and which were something like preliminary studies for this new album). Eight years is half an eternity in the digital age – yet the pieces on “Wald” seem timeless, or to have fallen from time. Stefan Betke: “After Steingarten I was on tour for two years. At the same time, Barbara Preisinger and I set up our record label ˜scape. Those were two hindering circumstances that were not exactly conducive to a creative restart.”

And it is indeed intended as a new beginning: “I couldn’t have really added anything new in the wake of “Steingarten” and the dub declensions I had made in previous years.” Yet repeating himself was not an option. And in waiting for inspiration to strike, there was an urgent need for the required “headspace”, or as Betke puts it: For the mind to be clear enough that a new beginning could occur naturally, without being forced. (A number of pieces had been written, according to Betke, but were discarded because he detected a kind of automatism that needed to be overcome. Perhaps he’ll listen to them again some day).

Over several years, long walks in the woods preceded the resumption of the production of his own material: “Walks through the Isar valley, but also through the forests in the Alps.” He was essentially waiting, applying patience, and viewing life as battery which needs to be recharged. But he immediately corrects himself: “Just waiting is also not a solution. You have to go through life with an open mind and with extended antennae. If something strikes you and inspires you to create new music, then it will be for a reason – enough of a reason to follow that inspiration under any circumstances.”

For Pole, it was the forest: its spatiality; the above, below and beyond; the horizon, offset by the vertical axes of the trees. “With previous albums, the city was that forest. Inspiration came from a walk through Berlin or Manhattan, where I could hear or see or read something and then understand that it is possible to continue.” So the forest was where Pole found the urge to “transcribe” that nebulous feeling into music.

On “Wald” it is manifested, for example, in raw sounds (act 2) and in psychedelic structures (act 3), which sound as if they might be guitars (but are actually distorted synthetic lines). Above all, at the turn of the decade, Pole conceived an idea as his sparring partner, which initially enabled him to release Waldgeschichten 1, 2 and 3 and to then spend three years working on Wald. From the tangible experience of the forest, a rather abstract question emerges: “How can I take what I have seen or felt and make it audible?” This question becomes a narrative, a story line. The initial story is that Pole went into a dialogue with his instruments, and the second story can be heard in the three acts of Wald.

The new compositions on 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. We know this from the visual arts, when an artist develops a kind of symbolic vocabulary that becomes inextricably linked with the artist himself. These symbols are delimited until they become exhausted, and thus the search begins for a new alphabet or vocabulary, in order to conjugate it once again. The same, but different. “If Wald had nothing to do with the world of Pole, then I would have come up with a new alter ego and produced it under a new name.”

The structures, forms and processes that Betke perceived in the forest were translated into musical structures, forms and processes that inherently sounded like Pole. Perhaps the forest simply produces reverberations (just like the echo in the mountains!) that give rise to a bounty of thoughts. The story behind it is told in music, without the use of words – as has previously so often been the case with Pole.

Author: Max Dax – Translation: Alexander Paulick-Thiel

waldgeschichten 3

format: 12inch vinyl / digital
cat.#: PL12
release date: aug 27th 2012

Tracklisting:
a: lurch (6:37)
b: moos (7:37)

The third and final part of the “waldgeschichten” 12inch series highlights and expands upon pole´s distinctive sound, connecting to the first two parts of the trilogy in a charming way. Again a fundamental element is the very specific drum sound embedded in complex dubby structures, seamlessly unified with the warm and deep basslines.

If you have had the pleasure of listening to one of pole´s live concerts recently, then you will immediately recognize the “lurch” and “moos”.

After the stripped down second part of the trilogy, with its wintery atmosphere, these tracks appear to be floating in melancholy. The field recordings and sounds fade away into echoes, grounded with massive bass.

This is a perfect conclusion to the series, offering a foretaste of the upcoming pole album.

 

waldgeschichten 2

format: 12inch vinyl / digital
cat.#: PL11
release date: dec 5th 2011

Tracklisting:
a: aue   (07:16)
b: pirol  (07:01)

Approaching the end of the year, pole presents another spacey and heavy bass 12 inch. Two melancholic, quiet tracks full of crackles and endless space, made for this winter. It seems that the warmth of these two tracks is glancing around a corner of a cold urban wall, just to say: “Soon, and it will be summer again.”

In contrast to the first 12 inch “Waldgeschichten,” with its use of full chords, this new production is marked by its use of spaces, which seems to expand until they collapse and enfold the listener.

This is the second 12 inch by pole, one of a new series of releases called “Waldgeschichten” which will end in a CD release.

 

waldgeschichten

format: 12inch vinyl / digital
cat: PL10
release date: oct 3rd2011

Tracklisting:
a:   wipfel  (08:30)
b1: wurzel (07:11)
b2: wipfel dub (04:06)

After a long break, pole is returning in 2011.
This break was necessary for pole to find his musical direction and produce a series of new tracks, starting with this 12inch. Other music will be released later this year and in 2012. With these three easy going and wonderful works, pole connects once more with his past. From his albums “1”, “2” and “3” via “pole” to “Steingarten”, pole rediscovers and reworks the characteristic warmth and deepness of his sound.

Bass and space are at the heart of both this new release and the specially established artist label “pole.” The warm experimental atmosphere is grooving slow and easy, carried from the funk of an old rhythm machine and connected through pole´s typically endless echo chambers.

“Waldgeschichten” is the first of a series of releases that will conclude with an album.

 

alles gute / alles klar

format: 12inch vinyl/digital
release date: 05.12.08

Tracklisting:
a: alles gute
b: alles klar

After producing several remixes  for other artists and labels Pole is releasing a 12inch containing 2 deep tunes that move between dub, dubstep and techno.

1 2 3

3cd / digital + 4 bonus tracks
release date: 25.07.2008 (˜scape)

vinyl box set + raum 1 / raum 2 bonus
cd box set
re-release: 24.08.2020 (mute records)

Originally released as three consecutive albums in their own right, it makes sense to treat these releases as a coherent trilogy. A deliberate statement reinforced by the numbering and stringent monochrome cover art.
Minimalism as a form of art. A statement not unlike Yves Klein’s blue canvasses. Confronted with one of Klein’s seminal images, a viewer might take it for a mere joke or provocation, but will soon enough one find himself drawn in and devoured by the maelstrom-like expanse of intense colour. Stefan Betke aka Pole’s music can have a similar effect. Here, reductionism and minimalism do not equal austerity, but a sensuous, almost baroque experience – oscillations produced by crackles and bass envelop the body and leave it vibrating.
It all started with the analogue Waldorf 4 Pole filter that gave Betke his memorable moniker. Inspired by the defective equipment’s distinctive crackles, Pole took them as a starting point for his equally simple and subtle sound layers.Here, rhythmic textures and warmly pulsing bass lines join in play and, at least from ‘Pole 2’, experience a slow shift towards Minimal Dub.
Pole’s music has a unique way of oscillating between euphony and avant-guarde, between pop and experiment. While many of his electronic avant-garde peers swore off all danceable elements during the latter half of the 1990s, Pole decided to walk the edge, championing both radical reductionism and groovy, almost psychedelic dream states. Tracks like ‘Kirschenessen’ or ‘Hafen’ give ample proof that his music does not exhaust itself in mere functionalism, but encourages new and poetic associations.
By now, all this is history. Like many genres and movements before it, Techno has been declared dead more than once. Yet this does not matter to Pole one iota. He never restricted his trademark sound to Techno or any other genre and his trilogy, a classic already, still resonates in contemporary electronic music. Pole’s unmistakeable crackles have infiltrated mainstream Pop and even the burgeoning Dubstep scene. Now, with the reissue of his first three albums, listeners get a chance to experience Pole 1-3 as a coherent entity and explore this defining benchmark in the history of electronic music.

Tracklisting:

CD1 (blue)
1 Modul  (4:37)
2 Fragen  (6:47)
3 Kirschenessen (5:21)
4 Lachen (7:31)
5 Berlin (4:42)
6 Tanzen (5:51)
7 Fremd (5:27)
8 Paula (6:16)
9 Fliegen (4:46)

CD2 (red)
1. Fahren (9:19)
2. Stadt  (3:28)
3. Streit  (5:58)
4. Huckepack  (4:41)
5. Hafen (4:27)
6. Weit (5:47)

CD3 (yellow)
1. Silberfisch (6:37)
2. Taxi (7:11)
3. Karussell (6:41)
4. Überfahrt (8:04)
5. Rondell Zwei (7:01)
6. Klettern (8:04)
7. Strand (7:32)
8. Fohlenfurz (3:12)

Bonus Tracks (on ˜scape cd release only)
9. Rondell Eins (7:24)
10. Heim (7:07)
11. Sachte (4:00)
12 Spaß Rewind (6:30)

1 2 3 were originally released on kiff sm/ pias germany, 1998, 1999, 2000
bonus tracks: rondell eins – kiff sm 12inch, 2000 heim – the leaf label, 2000 – www.theleaflabel.com sachte – city centre offices, 2000 – www.citycentre-offices.com spaß rewind – edit of “spaß”, mille plateaux, 2000

Listen to “1 2 3” on spotify.

123 CD inside view

steingarten remixes

format: CD/4x single 12inches / digital
release date: nov 16th 2007

Tracklisting:
1.  achterbahn (shackleton remix)    8:10
2.  winkelstreben (peverelist remix)    6:04
3.  pferd (the mole ́s lost in the woods remix)    7:49
4.  winkelstreben (ghislain porier remix)    4:21
5.  sylvenstein (deadbeat remix)    6:25
6.  mädchen (gudrun gut abc mix)    5:05
7.  achterbahn (frivolous remix)    8:07
8.  pferd (melchior productions’ zodiac mix)    7:38
9.  achterbahn (dimbiman remix)    6:49
10 düsseldorf (mike huckaby s y n t h remix)–detroit 6:58

Remixing Pole is a bit of a challenge. Carefully assembled, piece by piece, his seamless ”Steingarten” (rockery) exhibits no gaps, no ornaments, no superfluous flourishes. And a closer look at the tracks’ underlying structure confirms: any additions would only distract from their delicate balance.
”Steingarten’s” eclectic assembly of equally eclectic remixers were well aware of this tricky challenge – and none have opted for unnecessary embellishments. With plenty of respect for Pole’s pared down appeal, they nevertheless imbue the new versions with their very own signature sound. While Stefan Betke aka Pole’s minimal approach sets the overall mood, subtle nuances add different flavours to the mix. Rarely has a remix project been this coherent. An assembly of reworkings by friends and colleagues, the resulting tracks achieve the rare feat of reinterpreting Pole’s music without ever drowning out their singular clarity.
While Dimbiman, for example, starts his ”Achterbahn” with a bout of gently bouncing beats that evolve into a springy House groove, Mike Huckaby takes a more angular approach, yet both remain true to ”Steingarten’s” bare essentials. From Deadbeat’s sharp, dancehall-inspired beats to Shackleton’s sizzling dub grooves and Gudrun Gut’s subdued vocal samples – a recited A-Z of girl’s names – the resulting works refuse to twist Pole’s music out of shape, but highlight, cherish and reflect their essence. Here, Betke’s distinctive sound finds itself clothed in a wide array of contemporary electronic guises, from Deep House to Dubstep. And, best of all, despite their sometimes dizzying level of abstraction, all tracks are extremely danceable!
Originally a string of four limited coloured vinyl 12“ releases, the ”Steingarten Remixes” CD now assembles all tracks of the series.

THE REMIXERS:
A classically trained pianist and composer until his discovery of electronic music, Thomas Melchior works under several pseudonyms – Deepah, Sunpeople, Soul Capsule etc. – and counts among the pioneers of Minimal House.
Co-founder of the Berlin-based Perlon label and audio-visual project Pile (together with Markus Nikolai and Chris Rehberger) Dimbiman aka DJ Zip also collaborated with Carlos Peron (Yello) in the late 1980s. His solo project Dimbiman has been going since 1997.
Producer and DJ Mike Huckaby is a key figure of the Detroit scene. Mike Huckaby is mostly known for his recordings on Harmonie Park, under the ‘Deep Transportation’ title. Mike has been working on different production projects with artists such as Moodymann, Theo Parrish, Rick Wilhite, Cris Simmonds to name a few. and launched two labels: Deep Transportation and S y n t h. He says: “keeping the balance between deep house and quality techno is important”
Hailed one of the “upcoming 100 artists to watch” by URB magazines in 2004, Montreal’s The Mole has since released a stream of warm, pulsing disco tracks on labels like ‘Wagon Repait’, ‘Philpot’ and ‘Revolver’. Following releases on ‚Karloff Recordings’ and ‚Background’ with his recent debut long player on scape in febuary 2007, Frivolous aka Daniel Gardner excels in Minimal House treats brimming with humour and stylistic surprises, from smooth strings to jazzy arrangements.
Co-founder of London-based label ”Skull Disco” Sam Shackleton is a true master of bass-heavy Dubstep enriched with oriental flavours.
Bristol Dubstep pioneer Peverelist appropriates elements of British youth culture for his unique blend of Dubstep and Techno. Besides his own productions, he also runs the ‘Punch Drunk’ label with a roster including Pinch and Rob Smith (Smith & Mighty).
Starting out as Techno and Ambient DJ in the early 90 ́s Canadian DJ and producer Deadbeat is now considered one of Montreal’s foremost innovators with close connection to he Mutek Festival. The last few years have seen him moving ever closer to Dub and Dancehall.
Ghislain Poirier counts amongst the most distinctive new exponents of Montreal’s thriving young scene. His heady mix of Techno, Ragga and Hip-Hop – or, in his own words, ‘cosmopolitan bass & chunky digital dancehall’ – is about to see its debut release on Ninja Tune.
Founding member of seminal Punk/Wave outfits Malaria! and Mania D., Gudrun Gut has been co-presenting her eclectic ‘Ocean Club’ radio show (on ‘Radio Eins’, with Thomas Fehlmann) since 1997. The selfsame year, Gudrun Gut also launched her own ‘Monika Enterprise’ label, featuring artists like Barbara Morgenstern, Contriva and Michaela Melián, among others.

(Martin Büsser, 2007)

Listen to “steingarten remixes” on spotify.

steingarten

format: CD/double 12inch /digital
release date: 02.03.2007

Tracklisting:
1. warum (4:54)
2. winkelstreben (5:00)
3. sylvenstein (5:03)
4. schöner land (3:31)
5. mädchen (5:34)
6. achterbahn (4:52)
7. düsseldorf (4:23)
8. jungs (7:11)
9. pferd (4:11)

„Writing about music is like dancing about architecture – it’s a really stupid thing to want to do.“ This saying – usually attributed to Elvis Costello or Laurie Anderson – underestimates the urge many people have to read about music, even if it’s difficult to capture music in words. And this phrase was also coined by somebody totally unfamiliar with Pole’s music. Because when you listen to Pole, you always have the feeling that this is music that could be architecture, an elegantly spare form that reaches out into space. And it would thus be architecture you could dance to.

After minimalist experiments with elements of hip-hop and dub, Stefan Betke’s latest album has hardly any concrete references. What has remained, though, is the minimalism so characteristic of Pole. Built around little loops, his arrangements dispose with any kind of ornamentation. A stark contrast with the album’s title and cover – which shows a picture of the famously ornate, gingerbread-style castle Schloss Neuschwanstein.

But despite some funky grooves, this is no dancefloor record. And despite its simplicity, the music never comes across as meagre or repellently cool. This might be due to the fact that Pole has found a perfect middle point between avantgarde and pop. Pop in the sense of functional music, which wants to please and use familiar structures. And avantgarde, which, since early modernity has been characterised by a total lack of solicitousness, not seeking to be anything but an autonomous piece of art.

The beats are groovy, but never overtly dance-oriented. Melodies are used as harmonic dashes of colour, but remain fragmentary rather than sing-song-y. Some cracking noises pop up, but not as a dissonant element – they just seem a logical part of the sound structure.

The term “sound design” would, in this context, not be derogatory but a fitting term for the clearly structured textures which form the basis of Pole’s music. This music is not about mere comfort, and it’s certainly not made as the ideal, unobtrusive soundtrack for modern glass-and-concrete hotel bars. But it’s certainly about music that structures space and creates order. Formally, things dark, nebulous and irrational are alien to Pole. So it’s all the more amazing how well it nurtures daydreams – and practically invites listeners to drift off on flights of fancy. There is indeed one thing that Pole’s music shares with the visions of King Ludwig, who, in building Schloss Neuschwanstein, wanted to create a world for himself shielded from reality: Pole’s warm bass and powerful but elastic production style conveys a feeling of cosiness; it doesn’t take on the outside world, doesn’t mirror it or comment on it, but creates a world all its own.

Listen to “steingarten” on spotify.

pole

label: Mute
release date: july 7th 2003

Tracklisting
1.slow motion (feat. fat jon) (04:44)
2.bushes (there is a secret behind) (05:14)
3.umbrella (version) (04:45)
4.arena (feat. fat jon) (04:05)
5.round two (feat. fat jon) (05:30)
6.like rain but different (04:56)
7.green is not green yellow (04:35)
8.the bell (feat. fat jon) (04:30)
9.back home (04:45)

As a revealing conclusion to a series of releases in which two EPs merge in an album, “Pole” presents the final versions of tracks which, in their instrumental or deliberately sparse variations, had previously explored new production approaches. Similar to the blue-red-yellow album, which only revealed its overall idea in the combination of all separate recordings, Stefan Betke has created a sequence which continues to evolve with every instalment, accompanied by a fundamental musical shift.

Although the tracks assembled here stay faithful to the spirit of dub and Betke’s trusted production formula (i.e. computer-arranged sound design which, in the tweak of the tiniest loop, celebrates reduction right down to the essentials) “Pole” shows much greater affinity to hiphop, making the album substantially more organic, percussive and funky than his previous recordings.

Also, for the very first time, a voice has entered the mix with Ohio-based rapper Fat Jon.  On the album’s opener “Slow Motion” he precisely dissects the fabric of time. “Everything we do in this world and this life… has a timecode attached to it”, he states with dry inevitability.  To an equally inescapable beat, aptly striking every second, he turns time into a matter of politics and measurement into a question of definition.

Direct and subtle, unforced and forceful, with or without its vocal support: “Pole” is the most transparent of Betke’s recordings to date – no clicks, no scratches, no scrapes, no nothing dilute the strict clarity of his new output.

Visually, too, the image has cleared.  The hazy cover, still very blurred and low-contrast on the first EP, has finally found its focus.  Lights, mixing desk and a microphone disclose: the author, the musician, the person takes centre stage again.

By thus allowing us insight into his creative process Betke has forsaken anonymity and opted for collaboration with other artists instead – besides Fat Jon “Pole” features double bass genius August Engkilde  and saxophonist Thomas Haas.

R

format: CD/double 12inch/digital
release date: sept 7th 2001

Tracklisting
1.  raum 1 variation (feat. d. meteo)
2.  raum 2 variation (feat. d. meteo)
3.  raum 3 (feat. d. meteo)
4.  raum 4 (feat. d. meteo)
5.  raum 1 variation (burnt friedman)
6.  raum 2 variation (burnt friedman)
7.  raum 1 original
8.  raum 2 original
9.  raum 1 variation (kit clayton)
10. raum 2 variation (kit clayton)

R = Room
R is the new album by Berlin-based producer and ~scape founder Stefan Betke aka Pole. And, at the same time, it isn’t. Central to the album are “Raum 1” and “Raum 2”, two tracks produced in late 1996 and released by DIN in 1998. Around this backbone, this source of inspiration, all other tracks are clustered – formally re-workings by Burt Friedman, Kit Clayton and Pole, but really totally new pieces, all of them. The recording process resulted in two further tracks, “Raum 3” and “Raum 4”, expanding on those variations, while the CD-version of R contains the original versions of “Raum 1” and “Raum 2”.

R = Rework
“A Pole remix album”, you might think. But R stands for “rework”, a far more expansive process. Initially, Burnt Friedman had planned to work on the two original “Raum”-tracks, shortly before Betke founded ~scape. This turned out to be quite a lengthy affair and inspired Pole to try his own hand at the old material. What was initially intended as a 12” EP quickly turned into a fully-fledged album with Kit Clayton’s contribution and four new tracks by Pole, all centred around the idea of room and space.
While the original of “Raum 1” remains a rather dark, dubby, glitchy affair, “Raum 2” happily grooves alongside domineering echoes and pulsating sounds with an almost playful edge – attributes not usually mentioned in the same breath as Pole. In his new version Stefan Betke substantially lightens up “Raum 1” and changes its rhythm.  “Raum 2”, on the other hand, he magically transformed into a dubby, groovy sound collage. Burnt Friedman contrasts the detailed, synthetic sound affairs with jazzy elements and combines abstract electronica with seductive harmonies. Kit Clayton, on the other hand, singles out the groove component, pushes it to the forefront and almost manages to create a secret dancefloor hit.  Naturally, this approach remains far removed from conventional Techno stompers, as Clayton focusses on the actual deconstruction of beats and then juxtaposes them with his distinctive sounds.  At the same time, all “reworkers” studied the source material, entered into an intense relationship, re-modelled it and thereby transformed the tracks into something decidedly unique.

R = Redefine
R is also Pole’s first collaboration with another artist – his versions of “Raum 1”, “Raum 2”, “Raum 3” and “Raum 4” were recorded with D. Meteo (Submission) on guitar.  “It wasn’t easy” says Betke, nevertheless emphasising the new horizons the collaboration has opened up, mentioning the “freedom” he has gained, contrasted by initial thoughts of “compromise” or “restraint” that often occur when a solo artist decides to work with other musicians.  But Pole now cherishes the additional creative potential to be reaped from collaborative production and bilateral feedback.  This influx of new ideas as well as the input by Burnt Friedman and Kit Clayton turn R into an extraordinary journey through sound.
(Jan Ole Jöhnk, 2001)

Listen to “R” on spotify.

3

format: cd/double 12inch/digital
release date: 2000 (Kiff SM / Pias)
 
Tracklisting
1. Silberfisch (6:37)
2. Taxi (7:11)
3. Karussell (6:41)
4. Überfahrt (8:04)
5. Rondell Zwei (7:01)
6. Klettern (8:04)
7. Strand (7:32) 7.
8. Fohlenfurz (3:12)
 
Release information (2000):
From Berlin-Mitte, a central district in greater Berlin, where Stefan Betke, the individual behind Pole, lives, it takes a mere 15 minutes to drive to the Koepenicker Strasse in Kreuzberg, where his studio is situated in a former warehouse. The contrast could not be more prominent. Berlin-Mitte is prospering, whereas the Kreuzberger Durchgangs-strasse, Kreuzberg’s main thoroughfare, is lined with abandoned industrial yards, scattered apartment buildings and the odd commercial site. Fortunately, the atmosphere inside the spacious studio Betke shares with a producer-friend of his exudes calmness. It is filled with natural light and barely furnished, unlike many other studios. A little equipment over here, a black leather armchair over there, white walls throughout, but foremost – a superb environment for sound. At this place of procrastination, accompanied by the constant low-level drone of machines, Pole’s music comes to life. Pole represents both the musical core of Betke’s working life as well as his philosophical attitude towards life in general.

Structurally, the music of Pole is based on abstract, irregular rhythms created by a defect, analogue sound filter Betke uses, namely the “Walldorf-4-Pol” filter. These rhythms principally are defect frequencies full of interference ( in audio terms commonly referred to as “noise” ), not unlike the crackling sounds of vintage vinyl, except for a harder, purely digital quality, which makes them very immediate. Quoting the production methods of Jamaican dub – taking monotonous rhythms out of context by using echoes and repetitive loops – Betke has put out three albums, titled “1”, “2” and now, “3”. All three possess a frugal use of melodies and bass woven into a texture of crackling rhythms omitted by the filter. Outburst of reverberations and the persistent crackling appear to be a simple recipe, but in reality each Pole composition is as elaborate as a central nervous system, complex both in structure and texture. “We are talking about attention to detail as opposed to superficial qualities”, says Betke, ” I spend a lot of my time reducing structural clutter in a song, step by step, layer after layer, until I reach a certain foundation of lasting value.” What may appear abstract is really something quite tangible: after a methodical elimination process, a structure of 1-2 minute length remains. This structure could theoretically be lopped infinitely withoutlosing its dynamics because it has become an entity in itsown right. “At this point, everything goes beyond the levelof pure ornamentation. When the texture is complete,bass lines and melodies fall into place, seemingly coming from nowhere, leaving a mark, only to disappear again.”

The audience is dancing: Stefan Betke, originally from Duesseldorf, but now a “Berliner” by choice is one of the few representatives of electronic music who have a respect for classical music history whilst totally embracing the up-to-date club-music genre. Like many other producers and musicians 33-year old Betke works as a DJ for radio and clubs (like WMF in Berlin), but unlike the majority he is not available for traditional bookings. In his incarnation as Pole Betke lends new meaning to the phrase “making the earth move” whenever the confessed workaholic is invited to appear in places like Cannes, Paris, the Sonar  Festival in Barcelona, New York, London, Manchester or somewhere in his native Germany. With the precision of an engineer and the keen ear of an expert that can detect sound where there only was silence, Betke literally turns the concrete basements, open-air venues and night-clubs in his path inside out. The fact that the devoted minimalist counts Steve Reich and Arnold Schoenberg, John Zorn, Arto Lindsay and Fred Frith as major influences has had no impact on his energy-draining concerts or his strict, purist and simple recordings as yet. All of the previous releases were recorded by Betke himself in his own studio, first in Cologne, and as  off “2”, in slight disarray due to the move, in Berlin, before he finally settled in Kreuzberg. Both the recent maxi CD “12”, containing the tracks “Rondell Eins” and “Rondell Zwei”, and the just completed third full-length release “3” – the yellow album – were recorded in that location. Event though the albums are numbered consecutively, with the numbers serving the purpose of a chronology or a simple, but functional system of archiving, Pole’s instrumental tracks on “3” have literary-inspired titles like “Überfahrt” and “Taxi”. Dating back to “1”, the songs had names such as “Kirschenessen” (=eating cherries) or “Fliegen” (=fly). The res album, “2”, carries on with this tradition with conceptual song titles such as “Streit” (=dispute), “Hafen” (=harbour), and “Huckepack” (=piggyback). Stefan Betke bases these names on his own personal association with a particular song, and they also serve as his private method of archival. This conceptual structure instantly becomes evident, even to outsiders.

The crackling has remained on “3”. But you can sense invisible undercurrents of energy, a sublime suppression of power on the album. Like a car’s engine revving angrilyagainst a pulled handbrake, a latent feeling of nervousness is present. It is, however, heavily mantled by a matter-of fact relaxedness. Repetitive bass lines and evasive flurries of melody are at work, persistent and laidback and once and hold songs and album together. The means-to-an-end Stefan Betke employs are multitudinous: one track (“Karussel” =carousel) is slowed down to the pace of footsteps, you can literally hear the energy being held back. Another track (“Klettern” =climb) excites with manifold guises that could be likened to the abstract expressionism of Jackson Pollock. On yet some other tracks (“Strand” =beach) garbled voices are trailing in from far-away realms, distant, estranged, not recognizable as voices any more. In a sense, these sounds evoke emotions and memories, just as Betke is able to name tracks by association alone.

Generally speaking, “3” embodies the qualities of previous Pole releases: with every year the disk (the vinyl variety, not the CD) ages, the real scratches and cracks increase in number. Just like a good wine, Pole vinyl gets more valuable with age.

2

format: cd/double 12inch/digital
release date: 1999 (Kiff SM / Pias)
 
Tracklisting:
1. Fahren (9:19)
2. Stadt (3:28)
3. Streit (5:58)
4. Huckepack (4:41)
5. Hafen (4:27)
6. Weit (5:47)

album information 1999:
Few records last year, if any, sent such seismic waves through the ever expanding terrains of electronica as Stefan Betke’s POLE 1. The album had a certain organic feel to it in the way sounds were subtly reduced into something quite beautiful.
On POLE 2 Betke has shifted the emphasis away from the heavily featured random crackles and excursions into dub pioneer history on 1.Now POLE explores deeper into the dub method by concentrating on the crucial bass line. Previously distorted and way down at sub levels, the bass is rejuvenated, sharper and clearer on 2.
The meanwhile legendary defective Waldorf filter has come into its own as a regular participant in the proceedings. Whereas background melodies filtered in and out of the original release with its warm, somehow “analogue” aesthetic, POLE 2 features melody centre stage, capturing some of that Augustus Pablo magic.
The tracks on POLE 2 have already been showcased in stunning live sets in Berlin (the Bienale), London, Hamburg (Sous Terrain) as well as in USA / Canada.
Back home in Berlin, POLE will shortly be performing at the “Atonal Festival” closing show before the unique electronic composer Oskar Sala, the Hindemith student who went on to devise the sound effects for Hitchcock’s “The Birds”.
Press reactions to POLE have been overwhelmingly positive, outside Germany as well as inside. Check UK magazine “The Wire” for proof of his status in England.
Across the ocean, a buzz has been growing in the States on the back of exports, leading to a deal with the renowned independent label Matador.
Screaming teenagers have yet to be spotted outside Betke’s Japanese hotel. But don’t rule it out.

1

format: cd/double 12inch/digital
release date: 1998 (Kiff SM / Pis)
 
Tracklisting:
1 Modul (4:37)
2 Fragen (6:47)
3 Kirschenessen (5:21)
4 Lachen (7:31)
5 Berlin (4:42)
6 Tanzen (5:51)
7 Fremd (5:27)
8 Paula (6:16)
9 Fliegen (4:46)

originally released on Kiff SM, 1998

album information 1998:
Until now the name Pole was known only to a small, but attentive public as a trademark for high quality craft. As mastering engineer and vinyl-cutter Stefan Betkes pseudonym tadorns he runout grooves of countless House – and Techno masterpieces which were here given the the specific sound of vinyl.
Two singles later (one on DIN, the other on Kiff SM) under the same name with Pole is the hope connected, to lead electronic music and especially techno out of the dead end and to preserve them with new impulses as capable of surviving species. Pole´s music which especially in England caused a stir, can nevertheless only be categorized with great difficulty.
Pole are first and foremost crackles. The always present crackles from a defective 4 Pole-Waldorf Filter. This Filter isn´t only the name but also rhythmic scaffold. The interferences which were created by chance from the filter,while they only seem to follow a linear pattern while they always make the music non predictable and form together with the basslines the base around which in dub-manner short melodic parts are
arranged. Though this melodies are economically used a very dense, unobtrusive sound is created which leaves a lot of space for associations.
One of them might of course be the connection to Berlin. But the parallels which exist between Pole and other Berlin artists such as the use of dub-elements are mainly coincidental.
On the one hand Pole´s emergence goes back to his former home in Cologne and acquired only the finishing touches in Berlin and on the other hand Pole is less the result of a longstanding experience in the contemporary techno scene as is the case with many of the other Berlin artists but more a product of Jazz, Drum and Bass; Avantgarde and Dub. Despite the differences in Pole´s background there is a consistency in the aesthetic of interferences which moulds the debut album- A deep and warm bass which fills the songs with life and opens up room for visual associating like laughing (Lachen), flying (Fliegen) and eating cherries (Kirschen essen).