I'm all for changing styles and artists reinventing themselves. Dan Snaith (Manitoba) did it, and many other electronic artists have skipped around without missing a beat and sometimes even coming out better for it. After what seemed like a long hiatus, Stephan Betke finally re-introduced himself to the work just about a month ago with his hit-or miss 45/45 EP. According to interviews, he'd even grown tired of his old style, and cleaned things up a bit (removing his almost trademark hiss and clicks) to reveal a still-dubby world that had a few interesting things to reveal.
90/90 EP is the second step in his ultimate three-step unveiling process (the final arrives in his impending full-length), and unfortunately this short EP is a step backwards even from his first of a month ago. The most notable change is that this is the first new release to feature Fat Jon (who joins Betke for 4 tracks on the upcoming self-titled release). "Slow Motion" opens the disc with some juicy programming and looped melodica while Fat Jon adds some vocals that fit perfectly stylistically, but eventually falls prey to the same unprogressive rut as the music backing it.
"I Can't Hear" features another collaboration (this time with August Engkilde on upright bass and Thomas Haas on sax), and is basically a 5-minute ska-dub freeform that has some nice moments but again doesn't feel substantial enough to carry weight on a short EP. Closing out the EP are inexplicably two more versions of "Slow Motion" (an instrumental and an acapella). It obviously strips each component down to base elements, but with one track making up three-quarters of the EP, you'd be hard pressed to sit through everything, even if you enjoy the original.
The frustrating part of not only this EP, but the previous 45/45 EP is that once the album comes out, it will pretty much render both of them obsolete. Only the aforementioned "I Can't Hear" doesn't appear on the full-length (although there will admittingly be vocalized versions of tracks that were once instrumental). Even at that, though, I can't help but wonder why Betke didn't include more original tracks, or why he chose to put three versions of the same song (not even remixes, mind you) on this release. Whereas I was once really looking forward to what Pole had in store with his new release, I'm now left wondering if I'll care at all once I hear it.