Features | Awards

The Selected Ambient Works Award for Music That is Probably Played in Heaven

By David Abravanel | 21 December 2008

Nah Und Fern
(Kompakt; 2008)

Is it cheating that Nah Und Fern is a boxset of previously released material? Given that Kompakt did such a major service in rescuing Wolfgang Voigt’s brilliant Gas albums from the annals of the now-defunct Mille Plateaux label (one love), and placed it on a number of fresh ears, I’ll say no.

It’s a fitting time to revisit Gas, what with its influence all over the sublimely repetitive works of everyone from the Field to Panda Bear. Yet, what still distinguishes the material here, other than that it’s obscenely gorgeous, is a pervading sense of menace and mystery. Most prevalent on Zauberberg (disc two), subtle dissonances and minor keys become quite the jolt when snuck in to the endlessly reverberated sound washes. Going more minimal than minimal, the only rhythmic anchor to appear is the occasional, low frequency and distant bass drum, with little if any variation to the 4/4 pattern.

The glossy photos accompanying Nah Und Fern (in lieu of liner notes, which could hardly do justice to the music) are a perfect allegory to the sounds: definitely derived from something natural and organic, yet with crystalline and washed-out color schemes. Gas sees the world through the spotty, overwhelmed eyes of someone who has just started directly into the Sun; only this aftershock goes for four and a half hours.