Gas - Box 10xLP+4CD
Almost everyone we know loves Gas – the blissed-out, minimal techno project of Wolfgang Voigt. But don't let the word "techno" scare you off, as the music of Gas can easily win over the most ardent technophobes. The techno element in the sound of Gas is only one facet to Voigt's magical sound world, often just a shadow, a distant heartbeat like pulse, sometimes more pronounced, but usually just a murky throb or a rhythmic murmur. The music of Gas is gauzy and shimmery, blurred and softly buzzy. It's like an even more dreamlike Oval, or perhaps Porter Ricks crossed with Labradford, or Tim Hecker recording for Chain Reaction. When we talk about Kompakt's Pop Ambient sound, Gas is the template, that which we measure all other "pop ambience" by. The sound is at once ethereal and intimate, haunting and mysterious, lush and expansive, the beatless tracks drift endlessly, each a divine blur of soft chordal whir and looped effervescence. The more beat heavy tracks retain that same washed out otherworldliness, but manage to infuse them with a subtle, barely-there groove, sometimes adding gritty crackle, or subtle dubbed out delay, but always sounding light and airy, weightless and darkly blissful. We once described Gas as sounding like being adrift in a sea of electronics, in a fog so deep, the pulsating beats that would guide you back to shore are murky at best, muffled by distance and the unending push of the droning wind.
Box collects three of the Gas albums, all of which have been out of print for ages: Zauberberg (1997), Konigforst (1998), Pop (2000) and the highly collectible Oktember EP (1999). What is notably missing from the collection is the debut eponymous record, which did get reissued on the 2008 4CD box set Nah Und Fern (whose vinyl counterpart was a pitiful 2LP truncating an entire album onto a single side of an album). Each of these full albums for the Box are pressed as triple LPs, plus the lengthy Oktember EP. All of the material is reprised on the 4CD set that accompanies the vinyl.
As much as we love all these Gas albums, Zauberberg and Konigforst make up the heart of this Gas box. Both luminous and exuberant, yet subdued and melancholic. Sedate technotic pulses beneath wind-swept drones. Expansive orchestral sprawls burnished to an exquisite golden luster. Voigt's subtle dub techniques on these two discs coax the polytonal swells of deep sustained horns into lush rhythmic repetitions. These are heroic if gloomy electronica epics, realizing a fantasy fusion of Wagner's teutonic vigor and a disembodied dancefloor drone. Oktember distills all of the ideas from these two album onto two extended monophunk transmissions that are as good as anything on either of those two albums.
Where the earlier works were dark haunts of deep fluid ambience topping the nonstop pulsating rhythms, Pop is a shimmering sun-filled excursion that is mostly beatless. Its structures emerge from repetitive sequences of trilling ambience swelling in and out of each other within Voigt's surreal sound world of hypnodub washes. The lost beat resurfaces finally on the last track which is a beautiful looped repetition of the previous ambient modulations, but subtly and gracefully merged with a muted, insistent underwater dancefloor throb. Breathtaking.
Once again, we are reminded of this work as a modern minimalist electronic masterpiece. Utterly timeless.