Music News


When it comes to his own recordings, Stefan Betke, a veteran sound engineer for respected techno musicians like Basic Channel and Maurizio, has an obsession with the tinniest sounds, including those accidentally created by faulty equipment. His delicate sparse take on production has often been recognized as an extension of the Jamaican dub lineage. On his fourth album as Pole, Betke expands on this formula by cranking up the volume a notch and adding a human voice (lyrical poet Fat Jon, who appears on four songs). It's one of his best efforts.

As a rapper, Fat Jon eschews in-your-face bravado for a philosophical bent that is a good match for Betke's subtleties. On the opener, the latter pairs a woozy metronome with Jon's thoughts about time manipulation. "Arena" finds Jon discussing universal human lessons with introspective words like, "You don't have to feel ashamed if you want to change the rules/Only your brain must approve/Just chalk it up to paying dues/Can you remove your doubts and master your inner conflicts/Without losing yourself inside condensed nonsense?"

Even on songs without Jon, Betke composes for command attention, as on the booming bass of "Bushes (There Is a Secret Behind)" and the tense yet sweet xylophone melody of "Round Two." But it's almost as if Jon's specter has encouraged him to craft in a much louder and bolder manner than before; the funky stuttered drums that drive "Like Rain (But Different)," for example, are far more arresting than many of his earlier tracks. On this album, Pole finally speaks up with an increased rhythmic richness and an eager willingness to stretch his boundaries. Here's hoping people are listening.

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Tamara Palmer