Pole: Steingarten Remixes

Though Steingarten Remixes serves as a perfect complement to Pole's early 2007 full-length, it's also somewhat of a strange animal, given the precision-tooled perfection of Stefan Betke's originals. How does the remixer proceed when the Betke track is already so immaculate in its design? The ten-track set, which compiles all of the tracks from the four limited colour vinyl 12-inch series onto a single CD, reveals that the challenge turned out to be not so impossible after all, with the remixers opting, naturally enough, to re-shape Pole's material in accordance with their signature styles. The originals prove surprisingly amenable as the remixers twist them into dubstep, dancehall, minimal house, and techno configurations.

One couldn't ask for a more auspicious opener than Shackleton whose eight-minute “Achterbahn” makeover matches the hypnotic level of his Soundboy Punishments material. After opening in submersive dubscaping mode with aquatic chords that echo and shudder, the anchor drops when a serpentine bass line appears that determinedly drives the syncopatedly clattering material forward. Bristol dubstepper Peverelist maintains the high level with his “Winkelstreben” version. Awash in hiss and echo, the tune grows ever more intricate as layers of swinging cymbal patterns, restless bass patterns, and percussion accents accumulate. Three Montreal-based artists do the Mutek home base proud: The Mole gives “Pferd” a delectably funky, bass-heavy swing while still preserving the atmospheric melodic nuances of the original; Ghislain Poirier transforms “Winkelstreben” into a furiously pounding club stormer by integrating elements of dancehall and hip-hop; and Scott Monteith rises to the occasion with a feverish and funky Deadbeat dub-dancehall treatment of “Sylvenstein.”

Perhaps by design, the first half's relentless intensity is leavened by a comparatively more subdued second half. The pace abruptly cools with Monika label head Gudrun Gut's “ABC” mix of “Mädchen” where samples of an A-Z list of girls' names are recited over a curdling, nightmarish groove. The intensity rises for the spacey techno-bounce of Frivolous's “Achterbahn” and then drops again for the twilight minimal house swing and lonely Melodica calls of Melchior Productions' “Pferd.” “Achterbahn” gets another spin, this time from Dimbiman who anchors it with a springy, subtly funky house groove that's light on its feet, while Mike Huckaby's “s y n t h remix-Detroit” version of “Düsseldorf” is a deep techno-dub low-rider that as much indebted to Basic Channel-Chain Reaction as it is the Motor City.

Part of the pleasure and fascination afforded by the release comes from comparing the contributors' divergent treatments of the same original: Shackleton's “Achterbahn” sounds completely unlike the versions by Frivolous and Dimbiman, for example. It's not surprising that the quality level varies somewhat, with Shackleton's towering over the others; what's more surprising is the degree to which Betke's abstractions lend themselves to such radical re-configuration when passed into the hands of an admittedly formidable group of makeover artists.

January 2008