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Pole - 45/45

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Artist: Pole

Album: 45/45

Label: Mute

Review date: Jul. 3, 2003

Pole Vault

Electronic producers can often experience a prolonged moment of paralysis when their studio gear breaks down, but for Germany’s Stephan Betke it was a blessing in disguise. After dropping his Waldorf 4-Pole Filter during the summer of 1996, Betke discovered beauty in the hums and crackles resonating from the malfunctioning synthesizer. Combining his minimal techno and dub roots with the newly found static source, Betke soon began recording under the moniker Pole, establishing himself in the electronic scene.

Garnering a loyal following over the years, Pole’s ambient sound has equally complemented the sparseness of the titles given to his three-full length albums, 1, 2 and 3 (often referred to by their album colors: blue, red and yellow, respectively). The opening snap/crackle/pop moments of “Modul” (from 1998’s 1) began the lush static landscape that hovered over dub elements; a pleasant sounding journey that remained constant throughout the three releases. Clearly, Pole had found his niche and never looked back. Until now.

If his first release of 2003 is any indication, Pole has injected a heavier groove into his musical palette. On 45/45, the first of a two-part EP released on Mute, Pole’s trademark static has been displaced by a heavy dose of dub. There are no subtle sounds here. The opening bars of “Arena” immediately lock into a relentless beat, chugging like a steam train as it pushes the melody aside like debris into the outskirts of the stereo mix. If you’re ever able to reach a moment of clarity during this four-minute period of hypnosis, you’ll likely want to know what motivated Pole to take such a drastic approach to recording. But as you try to reach any sense of coherence, you’re soon thrown into “Round Two,” a slow pulse quickly knocking you out as a glockenspiel and synthesizers prance across a hefty organic-sounding drum groove.

By the halfway point of this four-track release, the rhythms will seduce any curiosities about the origins of this successful experimentation. And it doesn’t end after the second track. Proving that dead-air can often achieve the loudest effect, Pole implants nearly 10 seconds of silence during “The Bell,” creating an explosive climax as it returns to a beat sounding bigger than ever.

Pole’s familiar synth-hissing static has been removed but a chilled atmosphere remains, successfully transforming this release into four club-friendly tracks that will leave you feeling warmer than a glass of red wine. A refreshing approach that complements previous releases, 45/45 is an exciting introduction to a trio of releases for 2003.

By Darren Eke

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