Nah Und Fern
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The Kompakt label presents the work of Wolfgang Voigt's Gas -- a remastered deluxe package that includes all four of his Mille Plateaux albums: Gas (1996), Zauberberg (1997), Knigsforst (1998) and Pop (2000). Wolfgang Voigt, in the past known under a great many pseudonyms such as Mike Ink, Studio 1 or Grungerman, is the driving force behind the rise of Cologne minimal techno and also Kompakt's co-founder and co-owner. In the 1980s, Voigt began working under a concept he named BLEI -- extracting elements from classical, polka, brass music, electronic pop and German schlager sounds to form a distinguished and unique pop music style that would fit in with the subculture at that time. In the early 1990s, influenced by techno, Voigt began to experiment with a timbal marching through strongly alienated, free-floating string loops. These elegiac tracks, their lack of beginning and end, their intoxicating, smooth and partly amorphous structure sounded to him like evaporating gas and thus -- Gas was born. Gas is the vision of a sonic body between Schnberg and Kraftwerk, between French horn and bass drum. Gas is Wagner goes glam rock, and Hansel and Gretel on acid. Gas takes you on a seemingly endless march through the woods into the discotheque. Reducing the material to its basic aesthetic structure by using different zoom, loop and alienation techniques, he releases it from its original meaning and context, creating a kind of aesthetic essence, a cave to get lost inside. There are one or two new tracks and versions, but both Voigt and Jrg Burger decided to keep remastering light, maintaining Gas' purity and authenticity. This 4CD box comes in a special and stylish collector's format, including 4 small artwork prints. The double vinyl comes in a fold cover with a bonus artwork print and is strictly limited. The vinyl features one extended-edit track from each of the albums per side.
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The reviewers' discrepancy is in the description of the vinyl version, which is now nearly impossible to find. *Not one of the vinyl tracks appears on the CD set and vice versa.*
The CD box set consists of reissues of Gas's first four albums (with the first album alone being remixed). All four albums have been remastered, which seems to bother listeners who feel the original releases were slightly less muddy. I owned all four albums before acquiring the box set and still do. While I know what people mean about the sound being more nebulous, I don't find that to be a problem on a series of ambient albums meant to be heard at/as a distance.
The LP consists of a completely new track titled "Nah und Fern," followed by remixes of Zauberberg, Koningsforst and Pop (Gas albums 2-4), in which familiar material is re-edited and remixed. Each of the four cuts takes up a single side.
The track "Nah und Fern" (A) has Gas's signature sound -- blurred etheric shifts over a kick drum in the distance -- but features two sustained high tones that move by half-steps. None of the other Gas tracks do this. It is also slightly more sinister than any of the other releases by Gas (including the 12" *Oktember* on Mille Plateaux, *Modern* on Profan, and the 3" Gas CD *20 Minuten Gas Im November/20' To 2000 November* on Raster-Noton).
The mixes/edits that follow (A2-B2) all use telescoping, and feature breakdowns and parts that weren't emphasized on the original cuts. The differences, like the original material, are subtle and might not even be noticed by a casual listener.
But for completists like me, who have loved nearly everything by Voigt under this pseudonym, those differences and that one new track will be enough reason to seek out the vinyl-only version.
If you own the first four Gas albums already, the CD box set might be redundant, whereas the vinyl version of Nah und Fern will be completely new, and will appeal to people who haven't the patience to listen to all four albums.
Here's track list of the LP (I've included the tracks' durations):
A: Nah Und Fern (10:12)
B: Zauberberg (14:05)
C: Königsforst (15:18)
D: Pop (14:54)
I listen to "Konigsforst" and "Zauberberg" every so often, and have yet to listen to the S/T all the way through. K & Z are darker and more beat-driven than "Pop", but just as euphoric. What I like about "Pop" is its drugged-out, mysterious feeling. Although it was inspired by Voight's taking LSD in Germany's Black Forest, it sounds more like the deepest depths of the ocean to me, though I sometimes agree with his sentiments. The album puts me in a spiritual mood, working as a mind-expander that makes me think about the universe, all that has been, and all that will be. "Pop" clears your mind and at the same time, enraptures it. As soon as the bubbling sound of the first track comes on, all my worries simply melt away.
If you're a fan of SOTL, Biosphere, the Dead Texan, Loscil, Oval, you will like this album.