Narkopop (2017)

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17 years! Probably about 5 for me, but still.

1 and 2 create disharmony and disorientation. Less the previous sense of delving deeper into the forest or emerging into clearings or borders, more being directionlessly lost. Prominent strings by turns sour and sweet on 2 loom and fade above characteristic marshal bass thud. A shifting suite (easily the digital album’s second-longest at 11 minutes) which trades the inexorable allure of Pop for discomforting and ungraspable mystery. (why the title? seems like more a summative label than a reflective adaptation on Pop)

3 high shimmering, pipes, insect field recordings interwoven. A shaft of light. Benoît Pioulard. But the canopy shifts shut and darkness returns. Badalamenti all over N.

4 slightly abrupt start. Stuttering string loops like Tim Hecker, inhaled and exhaled. Second 4-minute track in a row and it does start to feel a little sketchy, ideas for a whole project exhibited but not explored. Again then going into 5: dizzy drums unusually prominent and clear for GAS. Slow mournful horns work very well: sense of a march towards oblivion, a valediction; relative cessation of ‘club’ atmosphere contributes to feeling that N is a self-referential GAS project, drawing on its own worlds rather than recognisable external environments. Novelty keeps it from feeling simply like a victory lap, though.

Then 6 opens with my favourite addition: wandering chimes, amid ominous Eno drone. These are chucked out at around 1.10 though and replaced by more typical arrangement. Strangely abrupt changes in volume, mixing: very restless for GAS.

7 butts in, steady pulse and return to tidal, immersive drones. Soundbathing. No spatial images. Fades out and you begin to miss it.

8 seems a return to the model of 2 (if more subdued), with the strings almost working against the bass pulse. Sense of loss, and of danger, and also slightly of going in circles.

9 picks up the field recordings (aurally distinguishing vinyl hiss from forest rain is always a GAS treat), taking us into 10, the final suite. (I’d love to know what the 71-minute closer 11 sounds like but I won’t be paying 60 quid to find out) Immediately you sense this is a return to a club atmosphere: the bass pulse returns with a skulking melody, backed by threatening, buzzing two-tone strings and needle sweep. GAS’ closers are often revelatory (see esp. the epiphany of Pop 7) and this feels like a final bow, an encore. No longer alienation or isolation: envelopment, communality on a packed floor. Staccato strings and synth drones. But by 11.30 we have wandered again; abstraction, clarity and peace. “One must return to beauty.”

Back in Autumn I went to see a Boiler Room-affiliated interview of Wolfgang in Dalston, at Brilliant Corners. They had a huge soundsystem set up (made us all aware of the price) and interspersed the discussion with tracks from the big three albums. Interesting how much of a normal guy he turned out to be: admitted to not actually listening to Wagner etc. as a kid, just mining them for the cultural connotations and general prevalence; choosing minimalist design for its own sake; not naming the tracks for continuity with that choice – nothing behind the veil. I asked him, given how personal GAS obviously is, whether there was any difficulty asserting his own vision over that of another artist’s when he credited a few remixes to the GAS project. He pretty much just replied that he saw this clash as an interesting challenge, as a fun exercise. Could tell throughout that he was excited to kickstart the project again.

This feels like a minor GAS album, but one hearteningly (finally) conscious of how important GAS is to so many. New sounds, but hard to pick out a story.

7

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