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  • Wolfgang Voigt has ADHD. "As a child I didn't go to the kindergarten because I felt disturbed by all the noise of other children," he told Dr. Chris Dooks in a 2015 interview. "It was the same later in school. I hated to go there." He didn't know it at the time, but these were early symptoms of hypersensitivity, a condition he identified only as an adult in the early 2000s. He tried medication, the dulling effects of which he couldn't stand, but soon turned to books for alternate views on the disorder. He discovered that the problem might not necessarily be with him. The fault is in the "social constructs," like school and work, which weren't made to support such "uncontrollable" or "nonconformist" dispositions. "Apart from that," Voigt explained, "after school in the afternoon, everything was fine when I could dive into my childhood fantasy world." No wonder he started Gas. Forest retreats have inspired everyone from Bon Iver to Biosphere. For Voigt, they were therapeutic. The now 55-year-old artist grew up in a family with deep appreciation for the natural landscape surrounding their home city of Cologne. Voigt spent much of his youth escaping into the nearby Königsforst. As a "hippie teen," he had his first psychedelic experiences there, and the place made such an impression on him that he named his third Gas album after it. "When I released Königsforst," he told Dooks, "I knew the record [had] much more of my very personal emotional inner worlds than any of my records ever before. But honestly I was not really aware about how much this was the case when I made the record. Personally, I learned to understand the effect of the record many years and 1000 interesting [responses] later." Now, 18 years after Mille Plateaux released Königsforst, Voigt's own label, Kompakt, once again reissues the album as part of a huge box set celebrating the legacy of Gas. Even without considering that 2008's Nah Und Fern, which compiled all four Gas albums onto four CDs and two abridged LPs, has been long out of print, Box is a welcome release. If the creator of this music can find new meaning and context for his work decades later, surely his dedicated fanbase deserves another reason to revisit. Without 1995's Modern EP and the self-titled debut album from 1996, this collection captures the era when Gas was a fully realized conceptual project that wanted to merge the sublimity of nature with the freedom of the club. Little of this is news to the countless people who have already dug deep into Voigt's highly influential catalog of ambient techno. But Box puts this music in a new light, in part by inviting intentional and chronological listening. There's a journey to be heard that's in keeping with the music's concept, from the looming expanse of 1997's Zauberberg through to the last and most peaceful Gas record, 2000's Pop. This may be meditative music made with vaporous samples of Wagner's strings and the elegant hypnosis of kosmische artists like Klaus Schulze, but its patterns and pulses take on lives of their own. A peak such as "Königsforst 5" feels monumental after trekking through Zauberberg's labyrinthine trails, emerging onto the dawn-lit vista of "Königsforst 1" and basking in the warmth of "Königsforst 2." Immersed in Pop's tranquil hallucinations, you get an idea of how Voigt felt as a kid, escaping the chatter of society to listen to the forest's whispers. For the uninitiated, Box is as much a history lesson in minimal and ambient techno as it's a musical odyssey. As Voigt explained to Dooks, the full effect of Gas couldn't be realized until well after his project faded into memory. The ripples of its impact have yet to dissipate—from Tim Hecker's sample-based ambient music and The Field's From Here We Go Sublime, to Voices From The Lake's self-titled masterpiece and Acronym's June—and a reissue like this will help them continue to spread. In his 2008 review of a rare Gas performance, Philip Sherburne said, "The point of Gas isn't the moment or the riff; it's the totality." Box seems to ratify the statement, presenting the core of Voigt's enduring gift to electronic music as canon. Yet what's more remarkable now than the influence and rich backstory of Gas is its mutability. Over a decade since this music first appeared, there's little about it that feels nostalgic. Worlds this sumptuous and vast don't so much hook the listener with superficial memorabilia as they penetrate to a deeper, reflective headspace. The flutes and strings that waft through "Zauberberg 3" sounded as old and intangible in '97 as they do now, the bass notes as subliminal, the beat as gentle, fluid and reassuring. "Tal 90"'s light krautrock guitar will always flutter with psychedelic harmony. As we change, this sort of music can change along with us. "But for sure, there is another side, which is much more personal and cannot be completely explained," Voigt told Dooks, describing a little-discussed aspect of Gas. In his undiagnosed mental state, Voigt found his creative process to "help me to concentrate, or to balance myself." That sense of relief, and the joy that comes from such self-discovery, is at the heart of these records. Gas is the sound of a man freeing his mind and allowing it to wander. To listen to Box is to seize that same opportunity.
  • Tracklist
      Zauberberg 01. Zauberberg 1 02. Zauberberg 2 03. Zauberberg 3 04. Zauberberg 4 05. Zauberberg 5 06. Zauberberg 6 07. Zauberberg 7 Königsforst 01. Königsforst 1 02. Königsforst 2 03. Königsforst 3 04. Königsforst 4 05. Königsforst 5 06. Königsforst 6 07. Königsforst 7 08. Königsforst 8 Pop 01. Pop 1 02. Pop 2 03. Pop 3 04. Pop 4 05. Pop 5 06. Pop 6 07. Pop 7 Oktember 01. Tal 90 02. Oktember