indie exclusive gold vinyl version - Stefan Betke's earliest material released under the Pole moniker were some of the most captivating sounds to emerge from the extremely active experimental electronic circles of the late '90s. Betke's skeletal, bass-heavy deconstructions of digital dub were haunted by glitchy clicks and scrapes from malfunctioning gear, giving even his warmest tracks an eerie atmosphere not quite like anything else. Seventh studio album Fading comes over 20 years since Betke began his journey as Pole with minimal, nearly holographic dub tracks, but merges some of the progress he's made along the way with references to his earliest sounds. Album opener "Drifting" slowly comes into form, introducing fragments of wobbling bass and squiggly synth lines one at a time until a steady but restrained drum pattern ties the song's various elements together. Ghostly melodica-like sounds and dissonant chord stabs float in and out of the picture and understated crackles and pops come in halfway through, all of which point back to Pole's earliest phases. These references don't aim to simply recreate past work, though. The songs on Fading are nowhere near as dub-inspired or minimal as Pole's ground breaking early singles, and restless, quickly shifting arrangements on songs like "Röschen" take the project's sounds to new, nervous places. On this track, a steadfast hi-hat pattern anchors a rapidly changing host of frazzled synth sounds, putting the song's mellow, stable pacing at odds with its palpitating sonic coloring. Fading never becomes as ornate as Pole's busiest album, 2007's Steingarten, but the songs are more restrained than minimal. The closing title track brings together the self-referential glitches, slow boiling drum programming and layered synth melodies that are explored throughout the album, keeping every sound neatly organized where a less masterful arrangement would quickly become overwhelming. There's a sense of slow-moving dreaminess throughout the album, but it's often more menacing than magical. The uneasiness that defines Fading's emotional flow is matched by how understated its presentation is. It's an album that demands close attention to catch its myriad details, but contradictorily lulls the listener into a state of distraction with its hypnotic pulse and deceptively calm exterior. As a result, the hidden textures and purposefully clashing tones of Fading might not reveal themselves upon first listen, but an album this dense and intentionally drawn just gets better each time it's revisited.