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Drums from the Deep...,
This review is from: Nah Und Fern (Audio CD)
GAS is the brainchild of Wolfgang Voigt, owner of influential electronic music imprint Kompakt. With countless records under different pseudonyms plus owning various record labels in the past, Voigt is considered a bit of a legend in the field of ambient techno. Nothing exemplifies this more than his GAS project.
Nah und Fern (which translates as Near and Far) collects together the 4 hard-to-find albums released by Voigt under the GAS psudonym between 1996 and 2000. Basically if you're looking for essential ambient techno then you stop here.
I feel that viewing the four albums as a whole makes them feel more substantial than if the albums were re-released separately, which was a great choice to begin with. The albums are presented in a box with card sleeves which serve to portion out the tracks in their respective albums. It's one body of work with one goal, one presence with only tiny dynamic and stylistic shifts to separate them. There is no need to separate them.
GAS is utterly transcendental music. Heavily processed strings, piano, guitar and I imagine a whole host of other sounds and eerie soundscapes comprise the murk of GAS' overall sound. Each wave of sound threads into another and warps and flows in and out of consciousness creating a dense, soothing cotton-wool atmosphere to immerse yourself into. Half of the tracks are pinned down by an unrelenting techno pulse that really does sound like a heart beat emanating from a vast murky cavern.
It is creepy music but it's somehow calming and soothing at the same time - it carries you off. It also occasionally provides a blank canvas for whatever emotion that surfaces, takes it and carries it away with the atmospheric lava-flow of pulsing beats and cotton-wool soundscapes. The best example I've found that resembles GAS' murk, dread and atmosphere is that scene in the mines of Moria in Lord of the Rings, when they hear the "drums from the deep" before the fiery balrog creature emerges from the caverns.
I haven't heard anything quite like GAS before or since. Other ambient electronic music like Basic Channel, Aphex Twin's first album, Monolake or Echospace don't quite capture that otherworldly vibe and atmosphere conjoured by GAS' four monumental albums. They're all dwarfed by the sheer scale and weight of the material. Echospace sounds positively cheerful and childlike when juxtaposed with track five from Zauberberg, the second GAS album, for example.
I will say, for the record - and you'd probably guessed this from reading the review anyway - that I can't stress enough how utterly inaccessible this music is. It's debatable even if you can call it "music" at all. It's like the audible representation of gravity or tectonic plates or something - not "music". "Music" is melodious and you can hum it. Can't you? Also - it's definitely for certain moods - you can't just stick it on anytime; it'll clear a party in seconds.
If you're looking for something a bit different, try some GAS. There's nothing else quite like it. Astonishing stuff.