Album: GAS – Nah und Fern (Kompakt CD 66 2008)

It’s 2am on a cold and wet November night. Outside the rain lashes down with a steady hiss coupled with the pop, pop, pop as large droplets hit the windows and drip on to the sill. You’re sat there listening to some mashed up mix tape of avant-ambient, neo-classical and drone music while someone somewhere is playing techno records at high volume – the muffled bass and thud,thud,thud leaking through the walls into your room. Sleepily, it seems that all the sounds are merging. That’s the sound of Gas.

Wolfgang Voigt’s Gas project lasted for four albums, all released on Mille Plateaux between 1996 and 2000 and all long out of print. Nah und Fern gathers them together as a four CD box set. It’s a beautiful package, illustrated with close up photos of Voigt’s beloved Königsforst near his home city of Cologne. There’s minimal information – each CD has its title printed on it, but that’s about it. None of the tracks are given names. All in all, there is something like four and a half hour’s worth of music contained within.

Gas was a very singular vision. Take samples of (mainly) classical music and layer, distort, stretch them into fluctuating drones and melodic loops, leaving in any static hiss and vinyl pops and clicks. Underpin (most of) them with a muffled, bass heavy techno beat and let them run their course for anything from six to fifteen minutes. The results are eerily homogenous and yet full of nuance, colour, melody and individual flavour. It’s truly beautiful music – hypnotic and strange, and yet almost womb-like in its enveloping warmth. Picking out highlights is near impossible. The music ebbs and flows like a single, gargantuan piece. The tracks work individually, but their identities and peculiarities are easily submerged when listened to as a whole.

Nah und Fern is an amazing ride – organic and otherworldly, dark and threatening and yet warm and inviting. This is music with so many layers that new things will pop up with every listen. It’s astonishing that some of it is twelve years old. There are echoes of this music in loads of contemporary works from Biosphere to Burial, Stars of the Lid to Murcof. But it’s still the benchmark that few have come close to equalling. It really is that good.

CD1 Gas 1-6
CD2 Zauberberg 1-7
CD3 Königsforst 1-6
CD4 Pop 1-7



7 responses to “Album: GAS – Nah und Fern (Kompakt CD 66 2008)

  1. I didnt know about this release at all.

    I’ve been quite a fan since i accidentally stumbled across a piece called ‘zwei’ on that horiible music choice channel on Sky.

    I bought ‘Konigforst’ that night and 6 years down the line its still one of my favourites

  2. I’ve only been aware of them/him for about a year, and this was the first time I’d heard any of the stuff, bar one track which I have on some compilation somewhere or other.

    Btw, what’s happened to yr blog? Most of it’s disappeared!

  3. Im not very web savvy and I was needing a place to blog and report on news about Phantom Channel. It seemed the most convenient way just to do it, rather than try to create my own I’ve just linked to that. To be honest I didn’t think many people were reading :)

    Is there a vinyl release of this record do you know?

  4. There was an extremely limited double vinyl album. Monorail sold out theirs in two days and it won’t be replaced. It was twice the price of the CD box set (which is selling for about £15) and contained about a quarter of the music.

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