Review Summary: Wolfgang Voigt warps and distorts techno sounds to create some unique ambient goodness.
With me, hearing a four-on-the-floor beat normally induces instant nausea. It's a little bit different though in the case of Gas – one of German electronic maestro Wolfgang Voigt's various pseudonyms. According to Voigt, the Gas project is inspired by his experiences with psychoactives in the Black Forest as a youth (which would probably be easy enough to deduce even if Voigt hadn't specified as much). Gas, as a result, sees Voigt switching over from the dark side, using his techno expertise for the powers of good to create some rather interesting drone-inspired ambient techno.
(German for "Magic Mountain") represents the cream of the crop of Voigt's Gas output. Although the analogy has been repeated ad nauseam
, the music on Zauberberg
can be best described as what it would sound like if you were lying on a field, strung out on some or other illicit narcotic, listening to a rave going on five kilometres down the road. It sounds like dance music filtered through various physical barriers and duly distorted such that it becomes a pale ghost of itself, hypnotic, immersive and alluring.
To call the tracks on Zauberberg
"songs" would be misleading (indeed, the absence of track titles on the album tends to reinforce this notion); they have no logical beginning and end points, no melodic progression and no climactic build. In place of songs, you could say that Voigt provides the listener with sonic textures. Using overlapping looped vinyl samples – warped beyond recognition – over distant, muted, pulsing techno beats, Voigt produces unique mesmerising drones that last anywhere from five to fourteen minutes. The only tracks to stray from this formula are the first and last, which feature no beats – the album's only concession to structure and symmetry.
While this might all sound horribly monotonous (and, in the absolute sense, it is), Zauberberg
manages to get away with it. This is due, in part, to the fact that, although there is no explicit melodic progression on any of the tracks, Voigt subtly manipulates the samples throughout every passage, stretching and compressing, layering and reversing, providing hints of melodic accents, ensuring that the album's monotony is at least punctuated by appropriate emotive swells and depressions. More significantly, the repetitive nature of Zauberberg
manages not to be grating because the repetition itself is part of the music's essential charm. The most fundamental selling-point of the album is its hypnotic character. Such an altered-state inducing soundscape would not be possible without Gas' trademark seductive repetition.
is great because you don't need a forest or drugs for it to make you feel as if you're in a forest, on drugs. Even if, like myself, you have an innate distaste for dance music (and hippies and junkies), the album manages to draw you into its world and let you happily drift away. Equally at home in chill-out rooms and on iPods of virgin hipster teens, Zauberberg
is highly recommended for fans of ambient music looking for something a little different.