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Volume 68, Issue 161, Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Arts & Entertainment

Pole bridges gap between dub electronica, hip-hop

By Zach Lee
The Daily Cougar

Dub electronica and ambient beats aren't all that popular today, even on campus. Sure, the occasional music snob listens to them to prove their underground taste, but as a whole, they are heartily avoided. Most students would be happier morphing that style into one of its more popular cousins -- hip-hop or dance. Pole, also known as Stefan Betke, is based in Berlin, and he refuses to believe dub is done. His self-titled release does, however, give a substantial nod in the direction of hip-hop.

Fat Jon, a rap artist from Ohio, makes guest appearances on four of the nine tracks, so a review of the CD would be remiss if it ignored him. His calm and calculated rhymes add a new dimension to Pole's sound that is definitely missed in the remaining five songs. His flows are deep and philosophical, but at times he completely abandons his message in order to make the next rhyme sound better. 

Most of the time his relaxed rhyming finds an easy friend in the beat, and his words make listeners think, at least a little bit. In the first song, "Slow Motion," he reflects, "As far as we all know, there's only one way to gauge time whether it's play time, work time or hit the stage time: hours, minutes and seconds, bars, beats and ticks. Your watch isn't broken right now; there's no need to fix it." Fat Jon helps Pole bridge the gap from standard music snobbery to music that regular college kids might actually pick up off the shelf.

That isn't to say that the rest of the CD is particularly bad. Pole's acknowledgement of hip-hop doesn't end with Fat Jon, and he obviously has some skill with the little computer whirs and beeps that pop up through the whole album. Some of his skill lies in finding the right people to work with. For the strong bass and steady beat that hip-hop brings to his new album, Pole also brings in two very strong jazz elements. Thomas Haas brings his saxophone to several tracks, and August Engkilde comes in on upright bass. The two collaborate on "Green is not Green-Yellow" to bring a more realistic feel to Pole's outlandishly relaxing loops. Fat Jon comes back on "Bell" to remind listeners that his voice truly is an incredible contribution to Pole's sound.

For electronica fans who shy away from hip-hop and hip-hop fans who shy away from electronica, this is an album that may bring these two worlds together. The complete lack of pop makes it all but impossible to hear this music on anything but radio stations run by other colleges, but it's worth your time.



Mute Corporation

The verdict: Call KTRU now to request "Slow Motion."

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