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Rub A Dub


I'm not sure what it is about Pole, but the first time that I heard his full-length release simply entitled CD1, I figured he'd be sort of a one-trick artist. Then, when I heard his second EP (also very simply titled) 2, I wondered if I wasn't in on some kind of elaborate joke that was concocted by Stefan Betke (the guy behind the sounds of Pole). What basically started out as a concept album based around the sound of a malfunctioning sound filter has now become 3 releases and I'm still finding myself more than intrigued.

When you look at the cover art, album, and song titles (they'll all one or two words, and in German) of the three releases, it's easy to expect something very minimal, and the sound of the releases is not completely unlike something. While the basic structure of the three releases is sort of a warm dub wash with little bits of static and pops, it's also a lot more than that. Like it should, the sound on each release has progressed ever so slightly as well, while still managing to keep the qualities that make the music very unique and interesting at the same time.

While the first full-length release tended to be a bit more on the minimal and experimental side, and the second EP found a bit more of a dub backing and a thicker sound, 3 is sort of like a combination of those two, plus an added step or two. With 8 tracks that stretch out over the course of 54 minutes, the songs themselves are longer than on previous releases and are almost hypnotic in nature (especially when listened to on headphones).

The difference can be heard on the very first track "Silberfisch," which roughly translated means "Silverfish" (as if you needed any help figuring that one out). With a tubby bass sound and the usual gurgling of pops and hisses, the track rolls along steadily and really does make you feel like you're swimming through heavy currents. The second track also takes sort of a different approach by using conversation samples sounding like they were recorded over a phone line from the 1940's. They're so disembodied that their juxtaposition with the almost harsh noises at the forefront of the track makes them even more interesting.

"Klettern" starts out in seeming disarray with bunches of piped-in clattering bouncing off one another and the steady walls of pulsing bass, but soon everything falls into place and by the end the track is one of the catchiest (if there is such a thing for him) songs that yet released by Pole. On a couple tracks (most noticibly "Uberfahrt" and "Strand"), the grooves run so think that they're very nearly have you tapping your foot. Almost like Mouse On Mars gone minimal dub, they're awesome.

Basically, Betke has shown that what was at one time probably believed to be almost a gimmick has now become a solid and very interesting offshoot of musical genres. Call it 'glitch-dub' or 'static-step' or whatever, but the fact remains that it's another well put-together album. It's also probably the most accessible album by Pole yet in terms of sound, so head on over to the Matador Site and download "Strand" for free, then check it out. It might take a couple listens to soak in, but once it does you'll be drenched.

Rating: 7.75