- 3 - ole-428 - 2000-06-20
- 1 - - 1999-02-23
- 2 - - 1999-02-23
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 defective analogue sound filter Betke uses, namely the “Waldorf 4-Pole” 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 without losing its dynamics because it has become an entity in its own right. "At this point, everything goes beyond the level of 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 of "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" (=passage) and "Taxi". Dating back to "1", the songs had names such as "Kirschenessen" (=eating cherries) or "Fliegen" (=fly). The next 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 angrily against 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 laid back at 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.
February 23, 1999
Few records last year, if any, sent such seismic waves through the ever-expanding terrain of electronic music as POLE's CD1. The album had a certain organic feel to it in the way sounds were subtly reduced into something quite beautiful.
On 2, Betke has shifted the emphasis away from the heavily-featured random crackles and excursions into dub pioneering that were so jarring on CD1. 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.
Meanwhile, the famed defective Waldorf filter, responsible for the distinctive random crackles in POLE's music, has come into its own as a regular participant in the proceedings. Where background melodies filtered in and out of CD1 with its warm, somehow "analog" aesthetic, 2 features melody center-stage, capturing some of that Augustus Pablo magic.
The tracks on 2 have already been showcased in stunning live sets in Berlin (the Biennale), London (with Plastikman), and Hamburg (Sous Terrain), as well as on the Chain Reaction USA/Canada tour alongside Vainqueur and Substance.
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 reaction to POLE has been overwhelming positive. The Wire says, "out of the stuff that lesser musicians would bounce around like so much silly putty...Betke fashions a music of overwhelming intimacy and poignancy." i-D called CD1 "absolutely essential," while The Face envisioned "even Massive Attack throwing down their samplers in defeat." Indeed, Betke has even earned a "free drinks" ticket in one London pub where a POLE fan bartends.
Matador Records is releasing both CD1 and 2 in North America on February 23, 1999 (the same as the overseas release date for 2). POLE will be touring North America in 1999.
February 23, 1999
Until now the name Pole was known only to a small, but attentive public as a trademark for high quality craft. As vinyl-cutter at the highly acclaimed Berlin master studio Dubplates and Mastering, Stefan Betkes' pseudonym adorns the runout grooves of countless house and techno masterpieces which were here given the specific sound of vinyl.
Two singles (one on DIN, the other on Kiff SM) under the name Pole caused quite a stir (especially in England), though his music can only be categorized with great difficulty.
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 scaffoid. The interferences which were created by chance from the filter form, together with the basslines, the base around which, dub-style, short melodic parts are arranged. A very dense, unobtrusive, and surprisingly warm sound is created which leaves a lot of space for associations.
Pole's emergence goes back to his former home in Cologne and acquired the finishing touches in Berlin. Pole is less the result of a longstanding experience in the contemporary techno scene and more a product of jazz, drum and bass, avant-garde, and dub.
Despite Pole's varied 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).
“Strand,” from ‘Pole 3’ is now available for MP3 downloadfrom our traffic-jam generating MP3 page. You can also hear a Pole cybercast at midnight on May 27 at Betalounge.com.
The Pole appearance at the Anchorage on the 8th of June now includes µ-Ziq (along with the already appearing Scanner and Granular Synthesis).
Stefan Betke, Pole remembers 1999
Noteworthy Story: The Fat Cat label in London got a track which was sent in under the name of Pole but it actually wasn't Pole. Pole was in North America touring at that time and Fat Cat thought it is a track by Pole. They pressed it and sent it out into the world and when Pole came back from his tour he was suprised and angry that someone did this under his name. But the the worst thing ever is that the tracks are so bad and has definetly nothing to do with Pole, that Stefan is asking himself does this stupid guy or girl whoever did this understand what he (Stefan) is doing? If someone knows who it was please let us now about this.
Farben feat. The Dramatiques (Llang Electronic)
Steve Reich - Drummers Drumming
Meredith Monk - Dolmen Music
Kit Clayton (scape records)
Vladislav Delay - hume
Wunder - karaoke kalk
Neue Music Aus Japan by Thorsten Krmer
Stefan Betke has started his own record label. From the website: "~scape records is a new label from Berlin, which intends to concentrate on exactly this modern city dub. Founded and managed by Stefan Betke who has (under the name POLE) established and developed this sound during the last two years like no other with his releases on Kiff SM and DIN and through various respected remixes." His first release was a 12" by Californian Kit Clayton "Nek Purpalet" this past summer and now a full length LP/CD by Clayton called "Nek Sanalet." Dave Martin tells us it fits into the "Modern city dub" parameters very well.
One week to go before our first nice weekend — this one in London. We have some line-up changes to report. Pole will not be appearing due to a scheduling conflict.
On the road again: The For Carnation are going to have some dates in the eastern U.S. in May. Jega and Pole both are expected to play some dates in the late spring/early summertime. Meantime, Jega has a one-off date in Miami during the Winter Music Conference with Prince Paul and The Pharcyde among others.