When talking about the most influential sound-shapers of the last few decades, it’s impossible not to mention Wolfgang Voigt. The german producer started working in the early 90’s on acid techno projects under monikers like Mint or Studio 1, then moved towards ambient music to the point of being recognized as one of the most appreciated musicians of the genre with the pseudonym GAS. Voigt showed the ability to drown the listener into his works with both the music and his overall aesthetic, moulding his own imaginary and setting every album into his vision. He can definitely be described as a 360° artist, as displayed in the video interview below:
Narkopop marks the comeback of GAS seventeen years after his milestone Pop, his most critically acclaimed album, and continues to develop his trademark imaginary: but even if the cover still features his usual look towards a forest, this time the photo is taken from below and it shows what seems to be a swamp in a shade of blue. The image is definitely very different from the sunbathed leafs in Pop‘s cover, his brightest and more hopeful work, while coherently Narkopop is clearly meant to be much colder and austere. Sonically Voigt has shaped his new effort somewhere between his first two records and has shown to be capable of evolving his sound without disrupting the continuity of his project: definitely a very hard task to accomplish.
During the opening four tracks GAS builds the foundation of the record with drones, violins, and slow paced beats. The walk into the forest is gentle but at the same time thrilling and spooky. “Narkopop 5” stretches the listeners imagination with a drear drumbeat that points towards a sophisticated crescendo, although the allegorical walk takes a tumble into the swamp, before reaching towards the first ray of light inside the otherwise dark woodland. “Narkopop 6” is ignited by a somber guitar that resemble a joyless version of the guitars played in his collaborative album with Jorg Burger, Las Vegas, an accurately spotted reference that expresses a glimpse of Voigt’s mastery of his crafts. This piece of work creates a sense of a rush stroll, a difficult and precarious place to be, and at the end of the day is probably the only not very inspired moment on the album.
All along the next three tracks the path of the listener is quiet but gloomy and melancholic, the range of emotions is almost static and it foreshadows the emotional ups and downs of the closing portrait: the tenth track manages to instill fear thanks to its rhythmical progression, while the drones and the background recordings put the listener in a sort of daydreaming. A perfect ending indeed. Voigt is well know to use the trick of using the closing track of a record to summarise its journey, as he did it in Pop too, and almost twenty years later the result is still mesmerizing.
The entire work is surely meant to be experienced from top to bottom, but tracks like the fifth and the tenth are so good that it is possible to enjoy them even individually; Narkopop, contextualized in GAS’ discography, is his coldest and more austere production to date and it manages to be as immersive as his predecessors, proving that a long awaited comeback can sometimes be very gratifying.