Release Date: Apr 21, 2017
Record label: Kompakt / Kompakt Germany
Although Wolfgang Voigt has put out countless albums under countless monikers over the last three decades, it's safe to say that his work as Gas has gained him the most attention (and possibly more attention than anything on his eminent record label, Kompakt). Blending sometimes-spacious, sometimes-dense minimal techno that helped define the microhouse genre, Voigt (as Gas) put out four game-changing albums in five years, the last being the undisputed masterwork Pop in 2000. Seventeen years later, Voigt has resurrected his beloved nom de plume for his latest, the fittingly titled Narkopop.
In the year 2000, Wolfgang Voigt released Pop , his fourth album of ambient music under the name GAS. At the time, it wasn't entirely clear that there needed to be a fifth. It's not that Voigt had run out of ideas. The three prior GAS full-lengths Voigt had released since 1996 had focused mostly on drone-laden synth washes, dark and swirling samples of Wagnerian strings, and a deep, insistent, and often disconcertingly fast 4/4 kick drum that did nothing to signify "relaxation." Pop 's sonic universe--a natural world rendered in an eerily synthetic manner--was actually the outlier of his discography at that time, a sharp left turn after four years of steady, incremental progression.
Gas is a side project of Wolfgang Voigt's that became his career-defining work. Inspired by childhood trips into the forest (and a subsequent LSD experience as a teenager in the Königsforst, near Cologne), the ambient techno of Gas is among the German artist's most personal music. It's also his most elusive. The deep drones, thrumming kick drums and snatches of classical music are as dense and mysterious as the forests that inspired them.
L ast year, the storied Cologne label Kompakt released a box set of Gas's ambient, techno-derived works: Box. With hindsight, that well-received retrospective now seems like a palate-cleanser for this first new Gas album in 17 years, from Kompakt co-founder Wolfgang Voigt, who releases under many aliases. Narkopop consists of 11 typically unnamed but numbered tracks of austere, saturated electronic polyphony.
Wolfgang Voigt releases music under many monikers as if attempting to conceal his steps from those who would fix his ethos in place. The Cologne, Germany artist’s work as Gas, however, continues to be among his most iconic. With a rapid-fire string of releases during the second half of the ‘90s and into the very beginning of the 21st century, the Gas project plumbed the depths of ambient and minimal techno, depths that until then had not been inhabited with quite so much assurance, patience, and nuance.
Narkopop is the long-awaited fifth full-length from Wolfgang Voigt's revered ambient techno project Gas, arriving 17 years after 2000's widely acclaimed Pop. Since that album's release, Gas has been anthologized with two different box sets on Voigt's Kompakt label (2008's Nah und Fern collects the first four proper albums on compact disc, while 2016's LP/CD Box omits the first album but includes the Oktember EP), as well as a book/CD on Raster-Noton. The project has commonly been cited as a major influence on the early 21st century school of ambient artists, and Kompakt has been releasing annual Pop Ambient compilations that often seem to use the Gas recordings as a stylistic template.
The modus operandi on Narkopop is to feature a heavily textured philharmonic orchestra sound that moves quickly to its own time signature, often in contrast to the cavernous trademark pulsing heartbeat or other supporting cast of musical characters. Naturally, there are no titles to the songs save for track numbers and, as is also tradition, the album's artwork highlights distorted images of Voigt's native Cologne in Germany, which features many natural forest like settings. This is where Narkopop, as well as GAS' other releases, take inspiration.
Ambient and house music are just different kinds of eternity, and eternity never goes out of style. That's one reason why Gas sounds as fresh on Narkopop as it did seventeen years ago. Another is the honed skill of minimal-techno polymath Wolfgang Voigt, the Kompakt cofounder who hasn't exactly been gathering dust alongside his most influential alias.