Stefan Betke (also known as “pole” for whatever reason) released his seventh studio album Steingarten
in February 2007. Early on in his career he gained next to no critical acclaim, his music was often cited as either “to strange” or “to sparse.” Most electronica fans were turned off by his music because he doesn’t go under ambient, electro-pop, minimalist, or techno. For now I’ll just say he has a truly unique and original sound, I’ll get to details later.
Betke moves away from his textured ambient-pop style that was found on his first three records and he moves into a more disjointed, glitch-inspired sound. The opening number Warum
features hand clapping, steady beats, a noise that sounds like it’s coming from a power plant, and a bass line consisting of two notes. All of these are played in sync to create a chilled out, strangely catchy sound that I’ve never quite heard before. Achterbahn
and Schoner Land
do the same exact thing. They combine different beats, sounds, and keyboard tones to create a soothing yet oddly addicting sound. Now you may say to yourself “doesn’t every electronica artist do something like this?” Not really. Betke’s sound is so unique because he often creates an unsettling atmosphere through odd effects such as scrapping noises, leaky faucets, people walking up steps, and beats that are all over the place. Instead of having a keyboard or beat oriented sound Steingarten
is dominated by strange sampled effects rather then a standard instrument.
If Pole resembles any other electronica group it would have to Mouse on Mars. I say this because both artists/duos have an extremely bleak and sparse sound yet they’re still able to create a relaxing, mildly funky sound. However there is one big problem with Steingarten
and it’s that there is next to no musical progression. A song may start off with one or two sounds but they progress to quickly and by the two minute mark the song is done progressing and you have to listen to the same exact thing for about three minutes. This becomes a big problem in the lengthier tracks such as Jungs
, upon first listen they sound very fresh and unique but once you listen to Steingarten
three or four times the formula wears thin.
All in all I enjoyed Steingarten
on my first few listens, however it’s still effective for an occasional spin. People new to electronica will enjoy the unique use of sounds and instruments and even avid fans of electronica will enjoy the organic production and glitch inspired sound. Although I gave this a 3/5 rating that doesn’t mean it’s a bad album, I found it highly enjoyable at first but like I said earlier it can get difficult to sit through at points. Steingarten
is a unique take on ambient/glitch inspired music however it’s lack of musical progression brings it down.