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I'll get the petty criticisms out of the way. Naming a label ~Scape (as opposed to simply Scape) is annoying and pretentious. It took me 5 minutes to find the "~" symbol on my keyboard. It's called a Tilde by the way and is just below the escape key.

Petty criticism two: though founder and manager Stefan Betke (AKA Pole) has impeccable taste when it comes to music, his visual aesthetic leaves something to be desired. His records covers tend to be monochromatic without any attention paid to the design. Perhaps this is fitting due to the minimal nature of the music represented by the label, but it is dull none the less.

And I just say these things as a buffer against the glowing praise that is to follow, because ~Scape is the most exciting label to come along in some time.

Most are familiar with German dub/techno minimalist Pole following the release of Pole 3 last year, but if you are not familiar with his distinctive sound you can check out a sample here. You may want to take a listen before continuing because understanding ~Scape requires a familiarity with Betke's music.

Originally from Cologne, Germany (also home to Mike Ink) Betke technicians his signature sound using a defective analog sound filter known as the "Waldorf 4-Pole" filter, hence the name Pole. The sound this piece of equipment creates is similar to the crackle of scratched vinyl on one of your older LP's. Using loops textured by the white noise of his Waldorf, Betke creates dub that is as relaxing as it is funky. In 1999 Betke founded ~Scape with a number of like-minded artists.

With its home office in Berlin, ~Scape had its premiere with a release by another ambient dub minimalist, Kit Clayton. Klayton's CD, Nek Sanalet, is a jewel of modern dub that is perhaps more palatable to those too impatient for the subtlety of Pole. Using his Powerbook, Clayton creates a crackling white noise with a heavy bass backdrop, but his beats are more toe-tapping than Betke's and may be more appealing to some. Nek Sanalet is dubby enough to please any fan of resonating bass.
LISTEN TO THE MUSIC, BRUDDA

Jan Jelinek - Moire
(from Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records)
Nolte - Track 5 (from Staedtizism 2)


Thus far Staedtizism, ~Scape release number 5, has brought the most attention to the label. This compilation, hand-picked by Betke, includes such artists as Vladislav Delay, To Rococo Rot, The Modernist, and Thomas Fehlmann all performing at the top of their game. The track by Vladislav Delay with its subtle echoing vocal sample is worth the price of the disk. This is probably a good place to start for those not familiar with the label.

My favorite by far though is the amazing Jan Jelinek. Jelinek is less atmospheric than Betke, but has a much stronger sense of melody. His CD Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records rivals anything recorded by Betke. The usual scatched-vinyl-sounding pops and crackles are omnipresent, but Jelinek juices things up a tad with a more upbeat 4/4. Jelinek also uses more looping and is more melodic than any of the other ~Scape players thus far. And of course, the pounding dub bass lines are to be found on every track.

Most recently, ~Scape released a follow-up to Staedtizism simply named Staedtizism 2. Artist such as Matador's Sad Rockets and Burnt Friedman and the Nu Dub Players are included on this disk which seems to have some different things in mind for the label. It was of course compiled by Betke, but this time around artists such as Nolte have thrown more jazz into the pot. On Nolte's track, the artist uses the melodic sounds of a xylophone to jazz things up a bit. The disk is still filled with crackling dub, but Staedtizism 2 seems to foreshadow an expansion of sounds for the label. Overall, this disk rivals the quality of the original.

~Scape has great things planned for the future as well. ~Scape 10 will be a remix CD of Pole featuring many of the aforementioned artists. And its just a matter of time before Betke himself releases his next full length on his own label. And you know Free Williamsburg will have it covered.

-- Robert Lanham

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Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
[email protected] | May 2001 | Issue 14