After releasing a trio of critically-lauded albums, Stephan Betke took a bit of a break from the actual process of creating music. His R remixes disc took a couple new angles with reworkings from different contributors, but everyone sort of wondered which direction he would take after seemingly painting himself into a corner (sorry for the pun) with the stylistically-similar blue, red, and yellow numerical releases. No matter how much I enjoyed those albums, I have to admit that they don't find rotation as much as they used to, and if he were to release something so stylistically similar, I'm not sure how excited I would be.
A couple years have passed now, though, and it seems that Betke is going to make baby steps in unveiling his new musical ideas to the world. 45/45 EP is the first of three planned releases in the next couple months, and the title of the short EP refers to the number of degrees the album shifts in terms of his old sound (according to him).
Truth be told, it may not even be as much as 45 degrees of change, although at first glance it seems like something entirely new. The biggest difference is that the filter from which he donned his name (the broken Waldorf Pole) is nowhere to be seen. Instead of dragging along in a hissing, crackle-filled realm, the production on 45/45 is clear as a bell. Betke is still taking big notes from dub, and this release is easily his dubbiest to date, filled with melodica clips and wubby low end and filtered hi-hats and snares. The opening track of "Arena" chugs out of the gate, and sounds remarkably similar to one of his old tracks if it had dusted all the cobwebs off and gotten a lot more self-confidence.
"Round Two" follows it up with a slight reworking of nearly the same sounds, while "The Bell" takes things down another notch into ultra-deep bass rinse mode. It's the most similar to his old work (the same sorts of delays on the sounds, etc), but again takes on a new feel simply with the new production. Of all the tracks, it's the closer of "Back Home" that is the most interesting. Collaborating with upright bass player August Engkilde, the track is a warm rush of hushed tones mixed with that rich upright and pinging electronics. There's no doubt that Betke hasn't lost his finesse in creating tracks, but after such a long hiatus, this EP is a little lacking in the excitement department. Sure, it's good and fairly solid dub, but given the supposed upcoming tracks he's going to unveil (with more collaborations, including a rapper on some tracks), it's barely enough of a taste to keep me wanting more.