Independent release, 2016
REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/21/2017
Markus Sieber had previously played more traditional rock music in Europe before relocating to Mexico, which changed all that. This is an album born out of reflections from travel. During the making of Aukai (Hawaiian for seafaring traveler), Sieber took up plenty of company with a roncocco (a stringed instrument rooted in Argentina) to deliver an ambient and instrumental album that defies classification and comparison. This release is built upon a framework of piano, harmonium, guitar, and a ronroco played by Sieber, with contributors including Sieber’s family providing violin, cello, harp, glockenspiel, and even some synth.
The opening track “Last Day” showcases Sieber's splendid guitar work before gentle keys and aching cello enter the equation. “Alto Paraiso” follows and takes a similar approach with guitar picking, before the swift and dynamic “Agua Azul,” which also uses keys to help cultivate a hypnotic landscape.
The atmosphere changes with “Colors Of Dawn,” which takes a turn into haunting and utilizes several stringed instruments. “Cachoeira” brings ronroco to the forefront with Sieber's sibling adding synth and beats, creating a busier but still elegant sound before the more stripped-back yet also haunting “Hidden.”
Near the end, “Snow” starts out like an Elliott Smith song before the aching strings give it a cinematic quality, and the Radiohead-esque “First Of March” is a nearly forceful tune that erupts into a lush explosion. The album highlight, “Wind Runner,” falls closer to the end, where reoccurring harp work and chilling cello work so well against the synth to build a unique, sprawling atmosphere.
You'd be hard pressed to find a flaw with this album. Every detail – from the recording to the production to the delivery – is sublime. Even the artwork and packaging are top notch. If you have a hard time tolerating instrumental music, don't let the lack of vocals deter you, especially if you are a fan of Brian Eno.