Pole

Pole 3 (Matador Records)

Cut from the same digital cloth as its predecessors, Pole 1 and Pole 2 (the only true reference points of any value here), Pole 3 is more minimalist future dub from German eccentric Stefan Betke. Ghostly echoes and thickened bass patterns form the skin of each piece, with the skeletal framework produced by Betke's broken-down sound filter, which emits a steady, menacing crackle of static. Embedded in this stasis are disembodied voices and only the suggestions or outlines of melody and rhythm. By silhouetting the gaps between, the silent spaces becomes an entity of their own, although the result is like looking at a photographic negative and trying to see the original. An utterly utilitarian work, Pole 3could easily function as background music at low listening levels, but with the help of a booming subwoofer, the thick, shuddering tectonic plates rumble as dangerously and unavoidably as tractor-trailers on a freeway.

Pole's closest counterpart in reality is the grim buzz and hair-raising hum of an electrical substation, powering grids and lighting dark streets. "Silberfisch" resembles interstellar transmissions received via shortwave radio in an episode of The Outer Limits -- with King Tubby scoring the soundtrack. Taking the old Eno mantra "repetition is a form of change" at face value, "Karussell" dissects each digitized heartbeat with a scalpel of static, charging it with robust kinetic energy. The game of keep-away among silence, bottomless groove, and that constant crackle keeps Pole 3 in a state of perpetual arousal. "Klettern" could even be a sexualized backdrop for cybernetic creatures humping and bumping in a laboratory.

Building each song around that insistent crackle of a broken analog sound filter and letting its idiosyncratic sound form a template of sorts, Betke constructs an almost aquatic environment that could be the sound of an engine room in a submarine. Or is that a dubmarine? Whatever -- Pole 3has almost nothing in common with dub of the reggae stripe but seems to come closest to replicating the 21st-century world of cyberpunk author William Gibson, whose classic Neuromancer novel outlined a future where dub pulsates through the Internet, interconnected minds, computer mainframes, and all creation. By the time of Pole 4, as we run through Habitrail mazes for humans, maybe we'll all understand.

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