The music of Stefan Betke is difficult to place, hard to get a hold on. That's no bad thing though, as his most recent album of Pole builds on previous experiments that concentrated on hip hop and dub to explore sounds that float through space. One thing's for certain - you wouldn't consider this to be a 'going out' album, not unless you were thinking of going for an out of body experience.No,Steingarten is a record whose intimate confines bring it indoors to cover the background with atmospheric noises and loops, willing to be briefly indulged by their author.
Warum sets the tone, a loping beat supporting a couple of melodic cycles that sit there insistently, but don't come too far forward. It's almost as if Betke is plotting a set of musical character studies, and the titles that imply a set of Robert Schumann piano pieces.
It soon emerges that Steingarten is about structures, some malleable, others concrete, that interact and play off each other. This description fits a track such as Winkelstreben, where a beat that, taken out of context, could soundtrack a UK garage ecord from the late 1990s, becomes the set loop over which Betke's atmospheric voices meander and collide.
Usually there's a warm feeling that accompanies these tracks, and Pole's sounds are generally consonant, reassuring and soft. Yet behind the relatively comfortable exterior nags a feeling of paranoia, barely perceptible on the warmer tracks such as the softly pulsing Düsseldorf, but found lurking outside the door in Achterbahn, despite a jaunty start.
And so the soundscapes proceed as one, never loud but traveling far and wide in their sonic range. An extra boost on the woofer will reveal fulsome bass lines and solid, unchanging beats, while the widescreen - or better still, the headphones will do sound justice to Betke's vision of electronically generated weather sounds and quasi-industrial mechanisms.
04. Schöner Land