In this age of maximalist, aggressive productions, the leafy green imagery for Pole’s waldgeschichten (literally, “forest stories”) fits perfectly. The trilogy of releases, the latest arriving at the end of last week, is easy-going and reserved. Each sound is precisely placed, gently shuffling interlaced dub-like patterns set against calm swells, sometimes resembling the cry of imaginary electronic creatures. It’s the much-needed trip out into the outlying forests of sound to find a different pace.

And with each track, you can imagine wondrous six-legged insect creatures climbing up a tree – mechanical machines (see the drum machine notes below) that are somehow organic. (That is, this is a convenient companion to yesterday’s bee music.)

Pole’s precise ear is in fine form here; there’s little wonder that the artist Stefan Betke has been highly in-demand as a producer. But amidst so many sound-alike productions, this is something special; to me, there’s a feeling of detached quirkiness. You can imagine someone seriously conducting finely-crafted sounds with a slight dimple showing; you might not help but upturn a corner of a smile.

The living quality of the rhythms isn’t accidental, though. As Ableton reported on their blog in the fall:

For his latest series of releases, under the name Waldgeschichten (“Forest Stories”), Stefan has worked with a modified analog drum machine. Taking advantage of the unusual timing of the machine, he slaves Live’s tempo to it, and then uses Live to record other parts, both analog and digital, to make his tracks

Source: Recap: CTM Edition of CDR, Featuring Pole

An extensive video interview with Pole, shot at the how-to event series CDR Berlin, offers some insights into the process.

CDR Berlin Workshop POLE (Scape) from CDR on Vimeo.

Few videos online are worth setting aside a half an hour, but this might be an exception. Mr. Betke talks about the origins of the label, and introducing artist Kit Clayton (known to Max/MSP and Jitter fans as developer Joshua Kit Clayton). He actually cautions producers about getting involved in entangling mastering with sound design and losing a compositional idea, advising them to instead leave this to the mastering engineer. He talks instead about concentrating on the idea – and the way in which he’s cross-breeding hardware and Ableton Live in production and live performance. The highlight for me is the tale of a broken filter, the evolutionary potential of oddball and imperfect hardware in music-making that’s so nicely exhibited in these releases.

But enough talking. Listen:

The releases —

— on vinyl:
(and in stores)

— or digital:
Zero Inch
What People Play


Live performances in Braga, Portugal, Graz, Austria, and — for Unsound Festival — Krakow, all next month.