This is not the Oktember that was released in 1999, but the one released in 2016 with the Box set of Gas’ albums. The original A-side of Oktember eventually found its way on the CD release of Königsforst and all subsequent reissues, so in order to not package the same song twice in the box set, Side A of Oktember is now “Tal 90,” a composition by Gas’ Wolfgang Voigt originally credited to Tal and released on the 2002 Pop Ambient compilation. That the two-track EP has not been restored to its original form seems strange now that it’s available on vinyl again independently from Box; certainly “Oktember A,” with its eerie little synth shimmers and murky, insistent beat, sounds better coming before the frightful thickets of “Oktember B” (just “Oktember” on this release). But maybe this arrangement makes more sense on vinyl, because “Tal 90” and “Oktember” are such different beasts that the A-side and the B-side represent their own journeys, one through blinding light, the other through darkness.

“Tal 90” is like a long sunburst. Strings saw away in a cheerful major key as a fake guitar preset occasionally scrapes across the sky. Beneath it all is a thick bass drone that predicts the fierce low end of 2017’s Narkopop and 2018’s Rausch. Superficially, the ingredients to a Gas track are there, but retroactively crediting it to the project feels wrong. It just… feels different. The Gas project is based on Voigt’s youthful, acid-fried adventures in the German forest, and all of the project’s albums are imbued with something frightful and feral, a knowledge of the desire inside every human to start walking and not look back, to shed our clothes and embrace the animal within. Those primal forces are not at work on “Tal 90,” which never insinuates or tugs at the imagination. Even the bass, which felt on Gas’s latter-day albums like a malevolent emanation from the earth, here functions to center us as the textural elements skip and jump through the stereo field. There’s not much deeper purpose to this track beyond sounding good.

This cannot be said of “Oktember,” one of the most incredible tracks in the Gas discography. The kick drum sprints with the relentlessness of a pursuing animal, every other occurrence illustrated by a small ocean of reverb. As we descend deeper into its 15 minutes, we’re never sure if we’re moving forward or simply going in circles. Our heart pounds with the beat; this is everything we want out of Gas. It’s even more intense coming after “Oktember A,” which is why, unless you’re a vinyl collector or really want to hear how good these tracks sound on vinyl, I would recommend simply making a Spotify playlist with “Oktember A” (it’ll be “Königsforst 1”) and “Oktember” next to each other, then going for a walk. Gas tracks sound best when you’re outdoors, anyway, as they dare you to wander further and further from home.

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