Sunday, January 14, 2007

Gas - Zauberberg

"Zauberberg" by Gas - an alias of Wolfgang Voigt - is a seminal album, one of my all-time favorites.

Like The Third Eye Foundation and Svarte Greiner after him, Gas approaches very Continental-European darkly romantic themes from an unusual angle, in his case from a techno background (Voigt's other projects are much more dancefloor-oriented than Gas). The easiest way to describe his music is as a union between the foggy, throbbing minimal techno of the Berlin Chain Reaction record label on the one hand and dark late-romantic classical music on the other.

It is more revealing however to point to the many intersections between the trajectories that this particular album and the work of German painter Anselm Kiefer trace through the landscape of German culture:
  • the scale of Gas's music is huge, as big as a primeval forest, as massive as the dimensions of Kiefer's works;
  • many of Kiefer's paintings and "Zauberberg" share the theme of the Wald, so deeply rooted in German history;
  • both artists have been inspired by Richard Wagner - Voigt using Wagner's sound world as raw material, Kiefer exploring Wagner's mythical world;
  • 'Gas' - the sinister nom de plume Voigt employs - and much of Kiefer's work points towards the German Third Reich. Both artist's work generated intense debate over it's relationship to German nationalism;
  • the atmosphere prevalent in both artist's work is one of immense desolation, of ominous tragedies, of foreboding, of brooding over some loss;
  • both artists thematize the materiality of their art, Gas through the use of vinyl hiss (together with Coil's 'Music To Play In The Dark' one of the early instances of clicks and cuts) and Kiefer's through the thickness with which he applies paint to his canvasses.
Vinyl hiss, crackle and pop are for me the most beautiful aspects of the album ... they are the sound of the death of grammophone records, the carbon black vinyl slowly rotting, eaten by time ... the carbon which blackens the transparent PVC of which records are made, can be made of charred wood ...

On "Zauberberg" the hiss, crackle and pop, the sound of decripit vinyl, is also the sound of the Wald, the ancestral forest, slowly eaten by fire ... a magnificent conflagration in the darkness.

1 comment:

verlaine said...

the sound of hissing popping crackling vinyl records is beautiful. thank you for understanding that.