With the collapse of the Mille Plateaux/EFA label several years ago, it meant that a lot of amazing music went out-of-print and generally became rather difficult to track down. Likely at the top of the list (at least, based on market prices for both the vinyl and CDs) were the four album releases from Wolfgang Voigt as Gas. Over the course of a five-year period, he essentially melted down a variety of different styles into a sound that both influenced a huge amount of artists after it and still holds up remarkably well today.
Explaining the music of Gas is fairly simple, yet given the number of artists who have tried to mimic the style and not done nearly as interesting of a job, it's certainly not music that's simple to emulate. Essentially, Voigt took samples of classical music (pulled from vinyl, replete with clicks and hiss and all), then looped and layered and filtered them while occasionally adding minimal beat programming. Tracks evolve slowly and sometimes ominously, with deep groans of swooning orchestras and brass, as murky kick drums push the releases deeper into (and out of) the forest with each subsequent release.
Although each album certainly had its own feel, there are the core elements (and some repeated flourishes) that tie the entire project together and make it work as a whole. It's the sort of work that is varied enough to stay interesting over the course of four releases and almost five hours of music, but also so singular and intense that you can immediately tell a Gas release when you hear it. There's certainly music out there that sounds like this, but nothing released to date that's had quite the same impact.
Because of these qualities, a listener also finds themselves drifting between different releases in the series as their favorites. I actually got my introduction to Gas on what would end up being the last release under that name (Pop), and immediately worked backwards from there, eventually landing on the super dark Zauberberg as my favorite of the bunch. For some time, the self-titled debut did very little for me, but after further listens it wedged its way into my very psyche as an essential part of the quartet as well.
If anything, Gas is the sound of an artist really starting down the path, as it introduces all the familiar elements of the Gas sound while also moving with a bit of a cleaner sound. There's a little less reverb and a bit more of a straightforward minimal techno feel, but there's also a touch of a harp sample that would crop up later in Konigsforst. On first listen, the aforementioned Zauberberg feels almost claustrophobic because it's so dark, but in combination with the lightening follow-up of Konigsforst. and the airy and open Pop, it makes complete sense (even while the cover art showed an even more intense focus).
This is one of those re-releases that was rightfully greeted with massive applause and anticipation from music fans, and it doesn't disappoint. Voigt is one of the co-founders of the Kompakt label, and fortunately the releases have been given only a very minimal remastering for the re-release, keeping the original classical-style dynamic range while bumping up the levels just a hair across the board. All four CDs come in a nicely-printed cardboard box with some graphic inserts that tie into the forest theme of the original releases, and while there isn't a great deal of liner notes or information, it isn't really needed. This is the sort of music that has a mystery and beauty all its own. It's a timeless batch of releases that are just as affecting as they were when they originally came out. Nah Und Fern is an essential release for modern classical, ambient, minimal techno, and just about any other kind of music lover. Stunning.