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As one of the godfathers of glitch, Stefan Betke knows that dropping a favorite piece of studio equipment isn’t always a bad thing. Thus the Berlin resident gave the world the unpredictable, arrhythmic sounds of his defective Waldorf 4-Pole filter, a device more commonly used for ho-hum remastering tasks. With Betke at the knobs, it became an oracle of pops and clicks, providing a sonic signature for several dub-inspired electronica discs released under the name Pole. But glitchiness for the sake of glitchiness isn’t as revolutionary as it was back in the late ’90s, so Betke has turned his creative energy elsewhere. He still operates in deep, hushed spaces where tedium is always a threat, but on Pole he ditches the Waldorf in favor of the clear-eyed lyrics of Fat Jon, an underground hiphop producer known more for his chill-out-style instrumentals than his MC skills. Jon’s dual mission here is to remain subdued and stay on message, focusing on time, memory, and identity. The simplicity works well against Betke’s newly uncluttered rhythms: “Hours minutes and seconds/Bars beats and ticks/Your watch isn’t broken right now/
There’s no need to fix it,” Jon near-rhymes on “Slow Motion,” which moves at the unhurried pace of a melting icicle. Similar metaphors appear on “Arena,” on which the MC adjusts his flow to a marginally sunnier soundscape: “Your thoughts get heavy don’t they/
Gravity is temporal as well as physical/And disconnects you from other individuals if you let it.” By the time Jon gets to “Round Two,” it becomes clear that Betke’s instincts consistently point him to the faint little rhythms and sounds that fill our lives. That’s not a huge surprise coming from a guy who built his reputation on making ghostly, occasionally jarring noises.The real revelation is Betke’s ability to make engaging sounds without a gimmick. Even for him, sometimes a glitch is just a glitch. Joe Warminsky