The decision to release a boxset of GAS’s discography a matter of months before the first new material for 17 years seemed rooted to the music’s soul. Playing with the ideas of time so central to Wolfgang Voigt’s most introspective project, it ties new album Narkopop to its predecessors, reinforcing the sense that the loops and floating kicks which first oozed out of speakers on the 1996 debut have actually been playing all along, it’s just in the last few years we’ve all tuned back into them.
At the same time, as you go deeper, the ease with which Narkopop can now be compared with its predecessors brings home how much has changed – in the music and the world it’s being received. As “Narkopop 1” unfolds and slowly fills the stereo field, it seems at once familiar and alien. The string samples warped so much only their faded echoes linger are back, but a synthetic dust seems to be glistening off their surface. From the outside the loops are their usual smooth, unfurling selves, yet as you focus in they become increasingly fractured, cracked and damaged.
‘Königsforst’, ‘Pop’ and ‘Zauberberg’, the last three GAS albums, all sounded like they were built on samples which could cycle forever. Like William Basinski’s “Disintegration Loops” they would evolve, but the hovering drones and sinking beats felt untethered to any specific duration, a feeling reinforced by the drastic changes in edit lengths that took place between the ‘Nah Und Fern’ and the most recent reissues.
"Narkopop captures the juxtaposition of the forest, the infinitely complex eco-system which when looked at from a far seems awe-inspiringly uniform."
Narkopop is more unsettled. Moments of conflict, sudden silences and slow rising intensity disrupting the borderless landscape. These moments are on the edge of perception, but undoubtedly there. Unmistakable in the desolate silence at the end of “Narkopop 4″, and the switch into a creeping, marching beat on “Narkopop 5″. What was constant and consistent, is now fragmented and uncertain.
Voigt’s claim that GAS is meant to bring the forest to the disco, or vice versa, still rings true. Narkopop captures the juxtaposition of the forest, the infinitely complex eco-system which when looked at from a far seems awe-inspiringly uniform. The cracks now fracturing the music, and the resigned fading throbs of beats such as on “Narkopop 10″ though, show something is unsettled. Maybe it’s the slow creep of the Anthropocene into the woods. Maybe it’s the fried mind of a raver desperately trying to reconstruct youthful euphoria.
Whatever the case, while earlier GAS albums found serenity in endlessness, Narkopop finds it in the subtle disruption. It has the same hazy beauty of its predecessors, but feels locked in entropy rather than infinity.
Narkopop is out now, order a copy from Kompakt.
1. Narkopop 1
2. Narkopop 2
3. Narkopop 3
4. Narkopop 4
5. Narkopop 5
6. Narkopop 6
7. Narkopop 7
8. Narkopop 8
9. Narkopop 9
10. Narkopop 10
11. Narkopop 11