Pole - Waldgeschichten EP
Stefan Betke ventures into the woods with his first new Pole material in two years, the Waldgeschichten ("Forest Lore") EP. "Wipfel" ("Tree Tops") traverses a canopy of crackling percussion, incidental rustle and sun-dappled chords that change color as they bob; "Wurzel" ("Roots") goes underground, ploughing a murkier, dubbier, more humid path. The metaphor isn't a new one; Wolfgang Voigt and Pantha du Prince, among others, have taken a similarly Romantic approach to their music, or at least their titles. But beyond Pole's rather canny musical evocation of woodland imagery—"pathetic fallacy," my ass—what strikes you is how he's foraging, himself—plucking pieces of his distant past (the dub rumble and hazy stasis) and bundling them with shoots that have emerged on recent records (the cleaner detail and brighter tone). Having passed through several distinct phases in the 13 years that he's recorded as Pole—his classic, granular dub techno, an odd foray into hip-hop, and the elliptical skronk of 2007's Steingarten—Betke seems to be worrying less about stylistic particulars, and instead letting his sounds guide him to a spacious clearing where the music can breathe free. It sounds stupendous, particularly "Wipfel," with its full-spectrum arrays and vivid stereo imaging. You may not hear a more sumptuously detailed recording this year.