it probably would be inappropriate to write a whole introduction to the music of stefan betke (risking a possibility of being accused of cultural snobbery, I do think that his name is well-known enough that it would be at least redundant to repeat all the well-known facts), at the same time it is impossible to describe this album without referencing his earlier works.
r is not really a new album, containing only two new tracks - "raum 3" and "raum 4." r is a tribute to the tracks "raum 1" and "raum 2", originally recorded in 1996, and released on vinyl by din in 1998. this album features two original versions of these tracks, six variations of them reworked by pole himself, and by ~scape label co-founders burnt friedman and kit clayton. with an addition of acoustic guitar, or a number of playful overtones, or even a bit more techno-oriented flavor, these tracks become a nice perspective on betke's sound, not straying too far from the originals.
now that we are done with the trivia, I should point out that the title of this album essentially represents the most important aspect in pole's music - presence of space and volume, especially apparent at the time of his earlier releases, when the rest of the idm scene was caught in soulless sound manipulation. intriguingly random shuffling and stuttering sounds that on surface are nothing more than digital artifacts, chance accidents. this unstable, volatile nature of his sound, its balance of human softness, imprecision and colder technoid elements is nothing really new, but betke is one of the few that can do it with unmatched precision and emotion. hisses and pops, clicks and cuts become the foundation, the boundaries outlining negative space of his textures filled with gentle atonal melodies and deep dubby rhythms.
pole albums should not be split in separate tracks, they shuold not become a target for meticulous rework and reflection; they work their magic only in constant succession; this is one of the reasons why a neophyte should start out with 2 and 3, leaving r aside until its collector's appeal becomes an imperative.