Boomkat Product Review:
Ooooof, it's been a while since we last heard from Pole but the German reductionist dub innovator has found his mojo again and this is his finest slab in ages. Proper frazzled low-end treatments for blunted exotica darlings.
It's been five years since Stefan Betke dropped a full-length, but to be honest we haven't been too interested since 2000's "3", the third and final part of Betke's trilogy of albums that still sound like little else. Those records helped light the touchpaper for a generation of young producers to experiment with dub sounds in a freeform electronic context, and while it burned out quickly the traces can still be heard fizzing through. Betke reissued the trilogy earlier this year and has now followed it up with "Fading", recapturing the unsurpassed essence of those early jams without repeating himself.
Inspired by the idea of memory loss as he watched his mother suffer from dementia, Betke wanted to connect ideas of the early Pole albums to his contemporary practice. And that's exactly how "Fading" sounds: the skeletal, decomposing dub sound that was so idosyncratic in 1998 is still present, but Betke fleshes it out with a mature worldliness that brings in elements of exotica and the subtle whisper of distant, half-remembered pop. That's not to say there are riffs (there really aren't, it's pure vibes from beginning to end) but yr transported to a world where oddly familiar elements are wrapped up tightly in tape hiss and white noise.
Like on those first few albums, Betke's rhythms feel elastic and in constant flux. Drum machine sounds and sonic detritus become pretty much interchangeable, melting into each other to create a highly distinctive sound universe. There's an element of nostalgia for sure - the glassy, polished (im)perfection of the early 2000s Mille Plateaux set is very well represented here - but Betke brings it into contemporary dimensions, updating the frame without losing its soul. It's the sound of a dying supercomputer on a distant world, if that supercomputer had learned about Earth's pop culture solely by listening to Jamaican soundsystem music of the 1970s and 80s.