May 8, 2009

Gas – Nah Und Fern (2008, Kompakt)

Gas is the ambient house project of the unbelievably prolific producer Wolfgang Voigt, who has released literally hundreds of 12”s since the early '90s under a wide array of aliases. Many of his projects have been considered ground-breaking and innovative classics in the minimal, acid and experimental house genres, including his ultra-minimal Studio 1 series, acid works under the moniker Mike Ink, and some excellent mid-'90s techno as Love Inc. and Burger/Ink (with Jörg Burger). Voigt also established the Kompakt record label, a top-notch minimal and tech-house label still very active today, and several other more obscure experimental techno labels such as Profan and Auftrieb, and the one-7”-per-week-countdown-to-the-millennium label Kreisel99. In spite of the incredible volume of releases, Voigt's material is reliably high quality and well-produced, if a little overly bizarre and abstract sometimes. My personal favorite series of Voigt's has been his Gas albums, mainly released on the fantastic Mille Plateaux label between '96-'00, now defunct and out-of-print. The albums explored long-drifting compositions involving endless, droning samples of German classical music, processed, granularized and reverbed into infinity. Soft crackles of record static appear in the mix, and clouds of strings slowly rise and fall. Thumping below the ambient mix is a steady 4/4 kick drum and minimal sub-bass line, driving and moving the listener ever forward, creating a sense of tension and flux. Many tracks break the ten-minute mark, and it is easy to get lost in the pulse. Kompakt has thankfully re-issued Gas's four main albums in one 4CD box set entitled “Nah Und Fern”, remastered to a higher quality but otherwise untouched from the originals. Only missing from this set are Gas's haunting “Oktember” EP 12” and limited 3” CD for Raster-Noton's millennial “20' To 2000” series (his earlier “Modern” 12” as Gas on Profan is in a more gritty, swirling psychedelic ambient style, relatively different from the Mille Plateaux series). This music was incredibly influential and inspirational to me in my own composition. My only complaint is that I sometimes find the kick drum a bit overbearing and DOOF-y... I prefer a soft pulse. Nevertheless, Gas taught me that ambient drone music and minimal house music can have a common ground which I found very exciting. This music was way ahead of its time and remains an essential classic.