Album of the Year 2017: #13 Gas – Narkopop

Narkopop was a surprise comeback from Wolfgang Voigt’s ambient project Gas, which is responsible for two of my favourite ambient albums of all time: 1998’s Zauberberg and 2000’s Pop.

On this new record, Voigt put together 78 minutes of music that are just as ethereal and airy as everything that came before it. But where Pop was gaseous in the sense of oxygen or water vapour – bustling and breathing life – and Zauberberg was tobacco smoke in a small, strobelit room, Narkopop sounds more like carbon monoxide poisoning or pollution.

In other words, this is the most noxious Gas album yet. Almost every track here is sticky, sour and sinister. Shimmering synthesizers are placed alongside moaning strings and hissing static to unnerving effect. Moments of transcendence suddenly dissolve into enveloping darkness at the change of a chord.

Some tracks pulsate with rhythm more strongly than others, but it is always a chugging rhythm full of dread, leading in a direction which can’t be changed or controlled. Something like the engine of a train heading for Auschwitz, or the irreversible effects of climate change.

Voigt has stated that his previous Gas albums were an attempt to capture his youthful experiences of taking LSD in Konigsforst, a forest outside his hometown of Koln. But Narkopop strikes me as a rejection of music as escapism – this is a bad trip through a forest ravaged by humans and full of predators lurking in the shadows.

To enter into the endless hedge maze of Narkopop, then, is to revel in the simultaneous fear and thrill of being lost. This is a long but rewarding album full of hidden treasures the deeper you dare to explore. Just pray you make it out alive.


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