Gas - Narkopop

by David Bruggink Rating:8 Release Date:2017-04-21

From its arboreal aesthetic to its creator's magazine-worthy publicity photos, the various pieces of Wolfgang Voigt's Gas project have always fitted together with sublime artistry. Unlike many of his contemporaries, his output as Gas has always transcended the trappings of most electronic music that confine tracks to a particular time or place, or suggest a particular set of tools or sounds localized within computers. Voigt's sounds are consistently inscrutable, unplaceable, and seem to exist as naturally as the skeletal branches that typically adorn his album covers. The comparison to vapor seems far from accidental, as his melodies are as ethereal as his palette of noises.

Nevertheless, as you make your way through his catalog, you can identify, if not exactly themes, then certainly emotional shifts. The foreboding, near apocalyptic crimson of Zauberberg seems to match the album's sustained sense of dread, for example, while the the comparative verdancy of the cover of Pop aptly describes the music's sensuous and complex textures.

Narkopop is perhaps less easy to pigeonhole, though its title suggests an inverse to the buoyancy and optimism of Pop. Seventeen years since the release of that album, Voigt's last full-length under the Gas moniker, it preserves his trademarks - the near-unrecognizable classical string samples, molded into phantom-like smears and light trails, and the whooshing 4/4 kick, the heartbeat that provides the focused variant to the ambiance that often scatters like snow drift. 

However, the mood feels different almost immediately. Where previous releases would often sustain emotional atmospheres across tracks and even albums, Narkopop seems to revel in shifts of temperament. 'Narkopop 1' (note the continued practice of nondescript track names) sets the tone for much of the album, as it subtly and unpredictably moves from enveloping warmth to unsettling dissonance. These kinds of changes don't feel like a contrived attempt at mystery or a last-ditch effort to make a more interesting album. Instead, they are more like the diversity of a forest itself, with its unexpected paths laden with ferns or trickling eddies, light seeping though the canopy of trees or decomposing wood.

The chords, when they can be perceived, are regal, angelic, and often disconcerting, but the impact of the songs, like all of Gas’ excellent albums, is spellbinding. There are several tracks in Gas’ catalog that I’ve often found myself listening to on repeat for literally hours at a time (Pop’s ‘4’ chief among them), and Narkopop has several (‘Narkopop 5’, ‘Narkopop 10’). It's a relief to know that, despite the passage of time, Voigt continues to make a unique form of music that can't be relegated to 'ambient' or 'electronic,' but suggests something more primal, pure, and original.  

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