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Thursday
Jun052008

Review - Gas - Nah und Fern boxset

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Gas - Nah Und Fern (Kompakt)

A 4 CD boxset for just over £20 is always a good bargain, but when it’s 4 fantastic ambient techno albums that are pretty hard to get hold (Pop can go for 50 - 75 Euro on discogs) then it’s possibly the best one of this year so far. Wolfgang Voigt, who co-owns Kompakt, very much prefers to hide behind a number of aliases, but without doubt belongs to that golden pantheon of German electronic artists who came to prominence during the nineties that includes Basic Channel, Uwe Schmidt and Pete Namlook. Starting with “Gas” in 1996, Voigt released 4 LPs on Mille Plateaux, followed by Zauberberg, Königsforst and finally Pop in 2000. Sadly the delightful artwork of all 4 individual CDs has been sacrificed, but this is but a small discretion.

It would be difficult to try to pick out strong differences between the albums, because in essence they are all quite similar with subtleties being born out from repeated listening. There are no track titles, and no discernable rise or change in tempo at any time. Voigt creates a throbbing world of ambient techno built on disembodied spectral samples of old classical records, wrapped in a dense fog of sound. Even the sharpest of melodies are muted and dampened, never rising too strongly, as the basis for composition is one loop with slight nuances and changes. Of the 4, it was the lush, uplifting ambience of Königsforst that made the biggest impression, slight house-based synth stabs pierced by subtle flickers of melody that transport the listener into a peculiar vacuum, propelled by the insistent beat. This is truly hypnotic music, Voigt creating a vast spectrum of sound with which one can immerse their self in. I must admit that I was intrigued by Zauberberg, taking its name from the famous book by Thomas Mann, which embodies many themes within its pages, most notably that of the philosophy of time. Of the 4 LPs, it’s the one that explores darker atmospheres and in general creates an unsettling ambience.

These reissues are a timely reminder of the cauldron of ideas that emanated from Cologne during the early 90’s, and highlight just how desolate that time seems now. Voigt’s Gas project was ambitious and high-minded, and the boxset is without doubt an essential part of any discerning electronic music lover’s compendium.

Nah und Fern on Discogs

 Toby Frith


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