Review Summary: Pole’s story began with chance and accident, but 1’s music is meticulously crafted.
Sometimes chance plays a major role in art. Some of the most well-known examples can be found in European 20th century artists like Marcel Duchamp and Jean Arp. Duchamp created a massive structure made of two enormous panes of glass engraved with tiny channels running between the two sheets, wherein slow chemical reactions traced out a network of lines and forms. When, during transport, one of the two panes of this work, nicknamed Le Grand Verre, got cracked by accident, Duchamp reportedly claimed it was finally finished. Dadaist Jean Arp on the other hand created compositions by dropping paper cut-outs from a short height and sticking them to the canvas wherever they fell.
This chance driven process of creation can also be found in music. Pole
mastermind Stefan Betke dropped his Waldorf 4-Pole filter on the floor of his studio, and found that when he connected it afterwards it produced all kinds of fuzzy static and pops and cracks. These sounds charmed him so much that he decided to try out what he could do with them. Thus, by chance and accident, next to giving his new musical project its name, it also provided him with a very unique sonic identity.
’s music on debut album 1
is full of samples of static noises from the poor Waldorf filter. Loops of pops and cracks form the flowing grooves and rickety but steady beats that dominate the musical landscape. These often high sounds are contrasted with dub bass lines of two or three note melodies, which hover quietly underneath, like on Tanzen
. Occasionally short synth drones weave in and out of focus, adding another layer over Fremd
’s clear, dubby bassline.
Most of 1
’s nine tracks rely heavily on rhythm and sparse composition, with melodies playing an inferior role. Betke commented on this lack of melody himself in an interview with Max Dax. ‘’Melodies have never been my motivation – they were always more peripheral. But across those albums [1, 2 and 3], the reverbs and the bass lines were always related and interlinked with each other. By working that way, I didn’t feel as if I was under any artificial pressure, and I could allow things to end loosely’’.
Betke’s lucky accident prevents the music from becoming soulless or cold too, despite his usually impersonal titles and plain album covers. The static evokes an undeniably organic quality to the techno backbone which makes the music breathe and come alive. It isn’t purely abstract music either. The static in the background of Lachen
calls to mind the tidal waves of the sea, whereas Berlin
’s cavernous depths are populated by what sounds like insects chirping.
All these references to chance and serendipity aren’t to say that Betke didn’t do any composing himself. Quite the opposite is true here, this is music that is meticulously crafted and tweaked. A track like Paula
, which could be the album’s best, underscores this perfectly. The seemingly random synth that keeps on going higher in an erratic and roundabout way, only to crash down again when it has reached a shaky peak is lighted clearly by a gorgeous, slow, stately yet slightly goofy bassline. Of course the washes of his broken Pole filter are all over it. When it slowly disintegrates, you feel like you’re lying on your back, perhaps next to the Paula in question, staring in the deep, warm blue hue of the album cover, and you know this seemingly messy album was carefully planned. A person made this. It’s a total triumph.