Pole Steingarten

Pole Steingarten
It can’t be easy living in the shoes of Scape boss Stefan Betke. Nine years ago, he undertook a trilogy of albums (1, 2, and, you guessed it, 3) that were lavished as instant classics and spawned countless imitators. More than any other single artist, save for maybe Maurizio, Pole’s late 20th century output crystallised the fusion of Kingston dub and Berlin techno. To this day, those records still tower over many electronic full-lengths. However, Betke himself has been trying to crawl out from under their shadow ever since. Not wanting to repeat himself, in 2003 Betke teamed up with rapper Fat Jon for an ill-advised step into click-hop, resulting in an all-out disappointment of an album that roughly approximated what would happen to Guru’s Jazzmatazz records if they were drained of soul. Four years later, Pole has returned closer to form with Steingarten. Betke may not want to go back to the dub static that made his name but where he wants to go exactly is still a looming question. The wholly instrumental Steingarten opts for a cleaner, more industrial sound that borrows as equally from the busyness of the current micro-house scene and the geometry of early ’90s Warp IDM as it does from the Background label’s current brand of hazy 4/4 singles, a mix of Kenny Dixon Jr. and DAF’s dancier fringes. Steingarten may not be the definitive statement Pole once made, but it’s an impressive and cohesive collection of tracks nonetheless, and one that sees Betke consolidating his strengths, and weaknesses, as he prepares for the long haul of his second decade. (Scape/Forced Exposure)