Steingarten is my favorite record of the year so far, an ambient record that doesn’t bore or get bogged down in its insistence on fading into the background. This kind of minimal techno is often left to machine-worshipping knob twiddlers, intent on draining the humanity and the fun out of their work. Despite its relentless loops and angular qualities (and the album is nothing if not geometrical), Steingarten is playful and maybe even danceable.
Even better, Pole, a.k.a. Stefan Betke, has taken his earlier (somewhat misguided) forays into hip-hop and folded them perfectly into his techno mix. Not at all concerned with sounding like the American genre, the German’s music can now feel like hip-hop, rising and falling in an undulating symphony of drums and loops. So when a minor glitch kicks in around the third minute of “Winkelstreben,” it all seems designed to knock you out of your consumer-bent slumber, like a high-end chef wafting some smoke into your ice cream.
If you’re the kind of hip-hop fan who hears the word techno and reaches for his gun, don’t worry. I get a kick out of both genres, but Steingarten appeals to the hip-hop fan in me much more than the electronic one. Maybe it all just sounds like toned-down Prefuse, a kind of Bauhaus-esque transmutation of the glitch-hop pioneer’s chaotic (un)natural beauty. Whatever it is, Steingarten deserves a listen, if only while you’re doing your daily chores. You’ll forget it’s even on until twenty minutes in, when you look up and think, Damn, this is kind of awesome.