Narkopop is the long-awaited fifth full-length from Wolfgang Voigt's revered ambient techno project Gas, arriving 17 years after 2000's widely acclaimed Pop. Since that album's release, Gas has been anthologized with two different box sets on Voigt's Kompakt label (2008's Nah und Fern collects the first four proper albums on compact disc, while 2016's LP/CD Box omits the first album but includes the Oktember EP), as well as a book/CD on Raster-Noton. The project has commonly been cited as a major influence on the early 21st century school of ambient artists, and Kompakt has been releasing annual Pop Ambient compilations that often seem to use the Gas recordings as a stylistic template. As fans might expect, Narkopop isn't a stylistic reinvention of the beloved Gas sound, but an evolution and refinement. The music remains as lush and forest-like as the artwork, but instead of the slowed-down loops of pop and classical records that made up much of the earlier recordings, which felt like never-ending soundscapes rather than songs, this one sounds more thoroughly composed. Even more so than Pop, Narkopop sounds like it could be transcribed and performed by an orchestra. The music sounds organic, with rushes of synths approximating strings and woodwinds appearing distinctly out of the haze. While the pieces are densely layered, they still seem to drift and float, even when there's a submerged kick drum thumping away underneath (as on the sublime 11-minute "Narkopop 2"). When present, the beats often seem to trudge at a slow tempo, providing a pulse when it seems necessary, but never getting in the way of the rich atmospheric textures. "Narkopop 4" is the album's darkest, most dramatic moment, with frayed strings getting stuck in a holographic dream, attempting to grasp onto something but unable to hold on. "Narkopop 8" is similarly suspenseful and cinematic, while "Narkopop 7" is comparatively much brighter, smiling sideways at a gorgeous sunrise. Both of the album's final two tracks (not including the 11th, only available on the vinyl edition) conclude with long, slow fades into nothingness. "Narkopop 10," an astounding 17 minutes of softly shuffling beats and tense yet light synths, causes the listener to become lost in a pleasant drift. Fully maintaining the trademark Gas sound while adding new dimensions, Narkopop couldn't be a more welcome return.
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AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson