Pole Folder: Zero Gold

Bedrock's first artist album, Zero Gold by Pole Folder (Benoit Franquet), is pitched as not only a dance album but a 'cinematic soundscape' influenced by Massive Attack and Pink Floyd; more interestingly, the release brings into sharper relief a divide separating popular and experimental dance genres. By the standards of mainstream styles like progressive house, Zero Gold may be radical; to devotees of a more left-field minimal style (like that of Ghostly, Perlon, and Playhouse) it'll seem hardly experimental at all. On the one hand, any album's claim to boldness needs to be contextualized; the downside is that compartmentalizing music can ghettoize it, with music of high quality prematurely dismissed on the grounds of its supposed associations with a given genre.

All complications aside, how does Zero Gold come off? Well, the production style is definitely cinematic, and the continuous segues from one track to another do help define it as an album experience. Tracks like “Inner Turmoil” and “Before it All Changes” do include many of the clichés associated with the genre: spacey atmospherics, majestic washes, and grooves that are equally ecstatic and anthemic; Pole Folder even adds raunchy guitar work to the swampy pulse of “Salvation on Slavery Sins.” Yet such clichés retreat into the background the more the album's heard, especially when some less-than-enthralling tracks are counterbalanced by some that are. The chugging, trip-hop of “Abrasion” opens the album memorably with a lovely female vocal while “Scared to Lose” underscores its appealing synth wash textures and Belgian songstress Sandra Ferretti's robotic delivery with a tasty funk groove. Kirsty Hawkshaw contributes a stirringly beautiful vocal line to the dreamy “Faith in Me” and any attempt to resist Shelley Harland's sinuous, hypnotic singing in “Fall in Violet” is futile. In short, regardless of your experimental disposition, Zero Gold includes numerous instances of strong songwriting and soulful vocal performances.

June 2005