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.
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
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.
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
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
Free Williamsburg© | 93 Berry
Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
| May 2001 | Issue 14