Save the massive excitement surrounding what was claimed to be his first and only show in the U.S. (though it seems he played Chicago three nights prior), everything about Wolfgang Voigt’s show at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre on Friday night was minimal. Performing under the name of his popular ambient electronic project, GAS, Voigt was hardly discernible in the dim light of Petra Hollenbach’s video accompaniment, a white, triangular portion of his shirt more visible than his face.
Primarily known as a co-founder of the German techno label, Kompakt, Voigt made four albums under the GAS moniker, all of which were re-released as the box set Nah und Fern last year. Beginning in 1995, Voigt attributes the original inspiration for GAS to an LSD trip spent wandering in Germany’s Black Forest.
GAS successfully captures a natural atmosphere with ambient sounds akin to rain, wind, waves and rustling leaves. String and brass instruments float in and out, and techno beats are occasionally incorporated in a muffled manner, as though hearing someone bumping their car stereo from a couple blocks away.
In an effort to make the performance more than just a laptop show, Voigt used a mixer to make subtle manipulations and transitions, though he primarily remained faithful to the original material. Video art from Hollenbach used Voigt’s own photography – also featured on the GAS releases’ album art – to create moving psychedelic forest images, stimulating the eyes in a similar way as the ears. Some audience members were lulled into unfortunately timed slumber while others softly nodded their heads. Drugs weren’t needed to feel Voigt’s desired affect – though they certainly would’ve been keeping with its inspiration.