Pole - CD1
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(Matador / Kiff)

As you can probably tell by simply looking at the package design and name of this CD, things are a touch on the minimal side for this eclectic release from Germany. My first introduction to the artist of Pole came with the track "Berlin" on 1997's Deutscher Funk compilation, and I really wasn't quite sure what to expect given the one track surrounded by musics of all different kinds. Then, in the months steady following, I read praise after praise for the disc and it's innovative sound; one produced at least somewhat technical glitches in an old 4-Pole Waldorf filter used by the artist in question (and hence, the name, silly). The person behind the scenes is vinyl-cutter Stefan Betke, and he seems to have gone off and created a strange new sub-genre for his style of wacked-out music with a bit of post-dub feel.

If I had to actually sit down and put the music into a category, I think something like, "Snap, Crackle, Dub" or "Glitchno" might fit things rather aptly. Sure, those are goofy names that are bound to never catch on, but upon first listen your reaction to this music might be something of the same. The most noticible sound upon first hearing the disc is a very organic feel. In most of the tracks, there is a sort of rustling noise than doesn't sound too far off from what you get if you don't have an automatic return-arm on your record player and you leave your platter going too long. As mentioned in the description above, the backbone to the music is a strange series of hiss, clicks and pops that sound out-of-place at first, but really suck you in after you realize there's method to what seems like madness.

The disc starts off with the hiss and a strange gurgling click on "Modul," before some of those trademark (yes, somewhat like Burger/Ink and Mouse On Mars) German bubbling noises surface along with a somewhat disconcerting screech and a nice low-end progression. At one point, the song breaks down again into it's most simple components before building back up into something a slightest bit faster than it all began with. The third track "Kirchenessen" is actually the one that gets closest to a rhythm (along with the sixth track "Tanzen") of any song on the disc. The light number moves along with dual, offsetting blurping noises and some light sounds in the background, but the ever-building progression and what sounds like bits of a fractured drum pull things along nicely. Perhaps the creepiest (and neatest) track on the release is one that fittingly goes by the titled, "Lachen" (Laughing). Some dreaming pulses start things off nicely before that nearly omnipresent crackle starts up, with a bit more snap than in other tracks. A strange muted keyboard pattern comes in before what sounds like an old, broken-down music box sputters out a few last breaths. It might be laughing, but I think it's a bit more on the sinister side of things. The only time that the real dub influence shows through is on the seventh track "Fremd." The beginning starts off as almost a generic ode, but is soon obscured by an ominous tone and the crackles and hiss that nearly sound like someone slowly stumbling their way down a dark hallway.

Oh yes, one more warning. If you can, listen to this release on a stereo of decent proportions. While a great part of the music is the high-end crackle and light noise, there's also a monster low-end going on that offsets most of the tracks nicely. Because of this, it also warrants a great headphone experience, but one might want to get a feel for the music before doing so, lest they feel like an insect is trying to burrow it's way into their head. The bass-end rumbles you off, but the twitches keep your ears pricked nearly all the time. In the end, whether or not you like the disc will probably largely depend on whether you can handle the nearly ever-present hiss and crackle of that Pole filter. There are tons of interesting and innovative things going on in the disc, and the use of sound-by-error only adds the freshness of the release. At first, it seems like it might all be a one-trick deal, but the variety of work on the disc should convince you otherwise.

rating: 810
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00