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Old 12-23-2008, 04:13 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default GAS - Nah Und Fern

GAS - Nah Und Fern
KOMPAKT 2008


First, some background information for those of you who wonder what this is: GAS is one of the German electronic music producer Wolfang Voigt's aliases, and it's ambient music. Ambient techno and soundscape music.

The boxset compiles all four of the GAS albums; GAS (1996), Zauberberg (1998), Königsforst (1999) and Pop (2000); and it's just as paradoxical as its title (which translates into "Near and distant"): it's an extensive body of work, but the content is fleeting and abstract, gaseous. Its subtlety is sometimes provocatively simple, but very intricate and not as minimal as you might think it is. You might listen to the music and think "yet another music producer not having the energy to make songs and instead hides behind pretentiousness and lots of bass", but that is a conclusion based on superficial listening, or perhaps bad speakers... The interested listener will find the MUSIC very rewarding - all the sounds are in hi-def and very dynamic (they're mostly warped and distorted samples from German classical music), creating a rich layer of sound, evidently constituting a colour or an image, rather than a note or chord. Add to this the beat of what sounds like an underwater locomotive, and I assure you, this is interesting.

The 'songs' don't have any titles, but here follows a chart with the number of songs for each record:
GAS - 6 tracks
Zauberberg - 7 tracks
Königsforst - 6 tracks
Pop - 7 tracks

Apart from the albums, you also get four atmospherical pictures of colour-warped forests, which may not be the most aesthetically pleasing objects to look at, but they sure do fit the ambiguity of the music with their haziness. In the same trend follows the lack of information and denotation in the boxset; the album names aren't on the covers, but one the discs themselves, and it's not always easy to see the letters against the blurry background... it's gas... hazy gas...

The first album, GAS, is the least conceptual one, and instead the most "catchy" (if you can justify the use of such a term when it comes to ambient music), and is a proper introduction to the rest of the albums. There are elements of glitch, or maybe Oval's 94 Diskont, here, as well as Eno and Tangerine Dream. One cannot deny the Kraut-ness of the repetitive beat driven-tracks, but this doesn't castrate them of their originality. Overall, the album has a more hazy and 'positive' tone than the others, with brighter sounds and sometimes even a danceability (mostly the second track). The spacious sounds put me in a shell-shock kind of feeling, as if you’ve finally fallen through the entangling web of the physical world. Especially the last track carries with it this kind of surreal feeling. There is also one song present on GAS which in a reworked version appears on Königsforst, and one might wonder why is that? Was he unhappy with the first version? I’d rather say it’s a step towards integrating the albums into each other.

The second album, Zauberberg, is the odd child of this collection. Having a much, much, darker tone than the others, this is music you DON'T want to listen while taking a walk in the dark. Or maybe it's just that kind of music. Anyway; its cover reminds me of the artwork for the game Resident Evil IV, and I must say it's quite fitting. Don't be fooled by the serene strings of the first track: soon follows distorted and right-left panned beats accompanied by what sounds like a horn that's being played by a poltergeist from inside your wall. The fourth track features manipulated guitar notes that sound just like what a guitar would sound like if it was played by skeleton fingers; harsh, irregular, haunting. The record is not entirely dark, however, as both the first and and the last track are quite light, creating a sort of conceptual vibe to it: what is that enormous dip of anxiety and fear in the middle of the record, really? Zauberberg is a masterpiece in atmospherical terms, but is probably the least accessible of the four, yet along with Pop the most rewarding.

It is very hard to nail down the atmosphere of Königsforst, but the most fitting word is probably "indifferent", or maybe "detached". It is the most drone-like record of them all, and overall it makes me feel as if I'm on a 19th-century steamboat adrift in the Atlantic... a quite epic, archaic sort of picture. And if i should give the album a colour, it would be yellowish-brown (like old photographs). There is no clear structuring of the tracklist, as on Pop and Zauberberg, but one could say that the tempo is lowered towards the end of the record where the two last tracks (25 minutes total) feature no bassdrum. One interesting thing with Königsforst is that it also features (on tracks 2 & 4) what seems not to be a sample, but simply a recorded and then reversed guitar. This is a break from the tradition of the other records, but I could of course be wrong. Königsforst is not the strongest GAS record, but is a welcome extrapolation on the GAS concept, and it is quite easily penetrated, even for the not-so-experienced ambient listener.

Pop is the crown jewel of the compilation. There is no doubt that this is Voigt's masterpiece. The record sets off in a very nature-romantic style, where the two first tracks feature sounds that resemble those of raindrops and cicadas, layered along majestic and uplifting strings. The album structure is that of a downward spiral: the further you get into the record, the darker it becomes. Only two tracks feature the bassdrum: 4 & 7. The fourth track is arguably the most beautiful of them all, in the whole GAS discog. Along with the sounds of nature and the sweeping waves of morphed strings runs the bassdrum, doubled with what seems like a bell, or some sort of metal object. The effect is enthralling, and will appeal to anyone. The lushness of the harmonic sounds, along with the mysterious beat is simply genious. Another stroke of genious is the tracklisting; the following track is very calm and soothing, as if making the listener recover from the immense beauty of the preceding. The sixth track introduces distorted, machine-like rythmic patterns (no bass drum though), which make for an interesting contrast to the first part of the record. These sounds are reused in the last track, the seventh, where they're set to a just as mechanical bass drum, and together they put off a grim ending for the record. The album will never leave you, with it's double blade of serene beauty and deep, deep, melancholy.

There could no other grade for this boxset than 5/5.
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Old 12-23-2008, 04:43 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Pop is a classic. All of his albums are, really, with the exception of Gas, being that it's the only album of his I haven't heard yet. Interesting to hear you say that it's the catchiest. Been meaning to pick up this boxset for a while now.
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Old 12-23-2008, 04:51 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Too bad I couldn't have a picture in my review (forum noob), but it's actually really cool. You really should get the box, it's pretty cheap being such a nice product, I think my copy was about 30 euros.
Yeah, "catchy" maybe isn't the word, but it has a lot of 90's techno in it, in a way. The sounds remind me of rave music.
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Old 12-23-2008, 06:23 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I've heard good things about this guy. Been meaning to give him a listen.
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