Wolfgang Voigt’s GAS project is more than just music, it’s a multi-sensory assault. Ever since the Cologne-based producer’s first release under the minimal/ambient techno guise of GAS in 1996, Voigt’s sprawling, amorphous sonic textures have evoked vast imaginative spaces in the minds of the listener. Professedly inspired by Voigt’s acid trips in the Königsforst as a teen, GAS is tied to the eerie enmeshing of these woodlands, and as such his intricate layering of sounds envelopes the listener like a journey deep into the dappled sunlight of a sylvan setting.
Celebrating just over twenty years since his first record as GAS, Voigt released his latest album, Narkopop, in March this year. His first in seventeen years since 2000’s Pop, Voigt brought this new body of work to the Barbican as part of a European tour. Almost a decade since his last live London performance, Voigt was watched by a rapt audience as he took to the stage in characteristically quiet sartorial flare.
One of the main tenets of the GAS project is that notwithstanding the productions’ seeming formlessness, or their capacity to bleed sections into one another – like the eponymous qualities of the project’s title – Voigt ensures that the compositions retain a fidelity to the 4/4 beat so central to techno. As such, Voigt’s tracks engender a disorienting sensation in the listener: your mind wanders into a meditative state of receptivity through the gentle sedimentation of sound, and yet the ubiquity of the 4/4 kick keeps you chained to the present moment, engrossed as compositions tread seamlessly between the introspection of private listening and the propulsive movement of the dancefloor.
Drawing heavily on the symphonic reach of Narkopop for this live set, Voigt’s laptop-controlled sounds merged perfectly with the forest panoramas projected onto the screen behind him. In fact, the audio-visual synthesis was so effective that both elements were inextricable, with the performance taking on the qualities of a live film score as foliage blurred into streaks of light while choral vocalisations were fragmented, and conversely as images attained focus once more, the aortic throb of bass clarified the arrangement. While the eerie propulsiveness of 1998’s Königsforst and 1999’s Zauberg was largely absent from the performance, the overall cinematic narrative demonstrated a clear maturation in Voigt’s artistic capabilities.
Ending on a crescendo to a euphoric choral harmony, GAS confirms that ambient music is much more than background accompaniment, it is instead capable of evoking deep and sometimes conflicting emotions in the listener, and confirms Voigt’s status as one of the most inventive producers of the last three decades.
Words: Ammar Kalia
Featured Images: Jake Davis (Hungry Visuals)