We all know music can become white noise; a radio or CD on an extremely low volume is just enough to take the creepy sterile silence out of the air. But can white noise become music? Pole’s Stefan Betke has stripped down his German techno beats and taken off their edge sanded them down to blurry remnants of techno. While sparse melodies still exist, they are covered up with a thick layer of tape player hiss. A hiss caused by a broken equipment, a Waldorf 4-Pole filter to be exact (hence the name Pole). The sounds this broken piece of equipment creates are much more organic than any sounds it was intended to do produce straight of the factory. And are certainly much more unique.
With a rhythmic, fuzzy warble spread on the music like thick cake frosting, it’s hard to distinguish the origin of the sounds. They are commonplace clicks and snaps, buzzes and hums set up in regular patterns that evolve into repeated rhythms. All the quirky everyday sounds we disregard and those sounds we fail to acknowledge as they happen. They are all here together, collected. And when they are together, these layers upon layers of unnoticeable sound, they are anything but white noise.
You begin to wonder if they are coming from the CD itself or are they coming from the other room. Is that the refrigerator buzzing? Could it be the whir of the breeze coming out of the air duct? Maybe it was your computer making processing noises. It’s difficult to decide what sounds are intended as music and what your environment has added. Everything entering your ears becomes part of the music.
And it’s the intricacies in the album give the songs relevance and character. New things surface on every listen. They give life to the lifeless noises. Teeth chatter, machines communicate back and forth, dog tags jingle, distant voices converse.
The music evokes random images and sets up scenes. “Silberfisch” roams an icy, barren landscape like a lethargic polar bear. (Honestly, no pun intended.) “Karussell” gives an uneasy, feeling of an old man disgustingly chewing, shoving in far too many Twinkies at one time causing his breathing to be accelerated and haphazard. It’s the sound of chewing coming from inside your head. Actually, this whole record sounds like it takes place within the confines of someone’s skull. Dark and mushy, enclosed, maybe even claustrophobic at times.
But on the whole the music is calming in a very frigid and impersonal beige electronics kind of way. The songs are muffled, tinny, even over-processed, but that’s the appeal. The album is slightly off balance, slightly damaged. Betke proves that even electronics can be organic. And even white noise, when collected like dryer lint through a screen, can become music.
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