In the continually growing electronic music scene, there has emerged a sub-genre which certain magazines have dubbed “glitch electronica.” These artists use the sound of broken CDs or broken electronic equipment as their source material to create subtle soundscapes. While it’s not exactly the type of music that will make you rush to the dance floor, this type of music seems to be infinitely more exciting to talk and write about than to actually listen to, but is guaranteed to get some sort of response when played at a party. Leading the way in this field are Germany’s Oval, Japan’s Nobukazu Takemura (a.k.a. Child’s View), and Pole, the project of Berlin resident Stefan Betke.
While some might be quick to label Pole’s music as incidental music, only good as soundtrack music or background music at an art opening, a more accurate description would be “accidental music.” One fateful day, Betke accidentally dropped a piece of musical equipment called the “Waldorf 4-Pole” filter (thus the name Pole) and realized that now that it was broken, it made a crackling static sound similar to that of vintage vinyl, which could be controlled and manipulated. Pole’s three albums thus far have been almost identical mixtures of this strange static sound with snippets of Jamaican style dub music thrown in.
The resulting sound can be extremely soothing or unbelievably grating, depending on the mood and past listening experiences of the audience. The bass levels in Pole’s music are extremely high, not enough to blow out the speakers in a Jeep, but just enough to remind you that you are listening to something. If you have your speakers turned down low, you might not even realize that there is music being played at all, which could be the whole point of Pole’s music. Like the great composer John Cage, Betke’s musical world view emphasizes silence and subtle changes in frequency and rhythms, which in this day and age can at times be a breath of fresh air.
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