I have been following Pole (AKA Stefan Betke) since his debut a couple of years ago with Pole 1 and am delighted to say he is the most innovative electronic musician in recent memory. His blend of dub and atmospheric techno, textured with subtle pops and crackles is a soundscape that is at once beautiful and totally original.

This musician from Cologne, Germany (also home to the genius Mike Ink) creates his distinct, trademark 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.

On his latest, tritely named CD Pole 3, Betke has become the master of his equipment and takes his Waldorf to places he had only hinted of on his last 2 outings. This release (though as sparse and minimal as ever) is definitely Pole's crowd pleaser and most accessible record to date. Betke's influence in Jamaican dub is more evident on this outing and his rhythms are more pronounced, giving us a record that has much more direction than his disappointing Pole 2. Those of you who enjoyed Pole 1 will not be disappointed. Those of you who think all good electronic music should sound like Moby - beware - you will hate this record. Electronic music does not have to be dance music!

I recently had the opportunity to meet Pole at the Anchorage festival beneath the Brooklyn Bridge and was impressed again by his live show. ( As an aside I must take a moment to complain about this festival. My complaints are many so I will enumerate:
1. Tickets were way too expensive
2. We were forced to wait outside for 45 minutes before being allowed entry.
2. The only lighting was provided by a hideous video installation that was projected onto the walls. It was so dark I kept losing my friends and bumping into people.
3. For some ridiculous reason, the musicians were kept away from the audience, behind a wall.
4. You could only smoke and buy drinks in the VIP lounge. Entry into this realm of excellence could be acquired only by getting one of the VIP passes that were floating mysteriously throughout the club. Inexplicably, they were enforcing this and losing alcohol sales.
5. After gaining entry to the VIP lounge by bribing the right people, I was bombarded by Camel adds on everything from the cup I drank from to the monitors on the screen.
6. Pole, who opened for Scanner and U-Ziq did not come on until 12:30. Maybe I am getting old, but on a Thursday night the headliner should come on before sunrise
.)

Being the cheesy fan that I am, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to meet Stefan (as I call him now) after the show. Ducking into the head after his set, I noticed Stefan taking a piss. Having just barely enough class not to disturb the man while he was relieving himself, I quickly ducked out of the bathroom and waited for him to exit.

"Great show," I said, trying to act as cool as possible considering I was standing by the door of a public restroom. We talked briefly and I was pleased to find that he was as friendly and warm as his music. After playing to an audience that couldn't even see him, I think he was pleasantly surprised to be recognized. At least I hope this was the case.

He will be back for CMJ and I for one will not miss it.

 

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Free Williamsburg | 93 Berry Street | Brooklyn, NY 11211
[email protected] | August 2000 | Volume 6

 

 

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