Album release: Aukai
Release date: 3 June 2016
More info: Artist website
Aukai is a Hawaiian word meaning seafarer or traveller. It’s also used as a proper name, and people who are called 'Aukai' tend to have a mystical, philosophical, introspective nature. All of which makes 'Aukai' the perfect name for the new album and project by multi-instrumentalist and composer Markus Sieber. It’s a collection of ambient acoustic soundscapes that take the listener on an inward journey to a place of stillness and tranquil beauty. His debut self-titled album is set for a June 3rd release.
Sieber’s own journey has been an eventful one. Born in Germany, he played in bands as a part of East Germany’s vibrant ‘90s rock scene before shifting his focus to work as an actor in Berlin and St. Petersburg. A life-changing move to Mexico put him in touch with more indigenous-leaning music, awakening a new musical mission that led him to circle the globe many times.
“This album and project has a lot to do with memories from travel,” says Sieber, “but also memories from childhood and nature. How did the river smell in summer? I wanted to create a sonic space where music guides the listener into some imaginative inner world.”
'Aukai' was born of his desire to create a new kind of music that could work in tandem with film, video, theater and the visual arts. The compositions on the album also grew out of Sieber’s love affair with the ronrocco, a plucked string instrument from Argentina that Sieber first discovered through the music of film composer Gustavo Santaolalla (Babel, Brokeback Mountain). He began sketching out compositions while traveling the world as a touring musician. But 'Aukai' really came together in the quiet solitude of a winter spent in an isolated mountain cabin in La Plata Canyon, Colorado.
From there, the project shifted to Berlin, where Sieber recorded the basic tracks for Aukai at Martyn Heyne’s recording studio with a variety of analog gear, pairing the ronrocco’s sonorous tone with his evocative guitar, piano and harmonium playing. “The vintage equipment gives the music a real physical quality,” Sieber explains. “You feel like you could almost touch it.”
He then called upon an international cadre of musicians to add their own tonal colors. Berliner Anne Muller (Agnes Obel Band, Nils Frahm), played cello. Bogdan Djukic from Belgrade played violin. Sieber’s wife, Angelika Baumbach added piano to several tracks, and his brother Alexander Nickmann contributed electronic keyboards and sound design. Another key player was Sieber’s longtime musical collaborator Jamshied Sharifi, the New York musician and composer noted for his work with Laurie Anderson, Sting, Dream Theater and the Montreal Symphony, among others. Aukai was mixed in Berlin by Martyn Heyne (who engineered Nils Frahm’s Spaces album) and mastered in London by award-winning engineer Mandy Parnell who has also mastered discs by Brian Eno, Bjork, Max Richter and many others.
'Aukai' may draw initial comparisons to the work of ambient instrumental artists such as Eno, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Goldmund and Nils Frahm, but ultimately it is an album that belongs in a category all its own—a beguiling collection of autumnal acoustic soundscapes dappled with subtle electronic touches.
“It’s kind of an unfinished sound,” says Sieber. “Not too processed. It invites you in. This is what I think is important—the listener has a chance to go inside the music.”