Release: Game Trails
Date: August 28, 2020
Mastered By: Martyn Heyne
See also: Branches Of Sun
There is a lot I want to say about today’s exclusive premiere. I don’t even know where to start. I suppose, at first, I should talk about the composer, and remind you of Markus Sieber‘s beautiful solo project as Aukai. The moniker is inspired by a Hawaiian word for a ‘seafaring traveller‘ and in 2018 I praised his self-released album Branches Of Sun, for its meditatively strummed ronroco (a Bolivian nylon-stringed instrument), gorgeous textures, and stunning atmospheres, inevitably landing on my Best of the Year selections. In August of 2020, Aukai is set to release his new album, titled Game Trails. The ronroco is still clearly present at the centre of all pieces, but this time Sieber’s compositions are even more tender, cinematic and acute. The production on the album incorporates deep-rolling bass, tension-building synths and head-nodding percussion. This sound is enriched by a contribution from collaborators, such as Alex Nickmann on electronics (Sieber’s own brother), Bogdan Djukic on strings, and Anne Müller on the cello. And then there is the video, directed by a Russian art-house and experimental film production, Psydoc Film for Aukai’s first single, “Akal Ki”. This comes with its own fascinating story. But… why don’t I let you watch it first?
Sitting in stifling traffic, the film’s protagonist decides to follow an inner calling which takes him out of the city towards nature, both outside and within. Russian scientist Dr Michael Yoshpa, who debuts in this video, partly documents the reality of his own journey. Yoshpa, who holds a PhD in pharmacognosy and medicinal chemistry, and masters degrees in biology and education, took a turn in his career in his late 50s to embark on a journey of self-knowledge and freedom, teaching qigong, yoga and meditation and travelling the world as a photographer. The video, filmed in St. Petersburg draws inspiration from Feldenkrais movement therapy and contemporary choreography to explore the freedom of the inner, wild paths of the soul.
Akal Ki is a beautiful place at the laguna of Bacalar in Mexico, also called the laguna of seven colours. As I use to travel a lot, many of my pieces are linked to places, and I often name them, when they are still tiny drafts, after the place where they began to exist. It helps me to keep track of these scratches, like creating an internal map of images and atmospheres. Later I often change the names of these musical postcards or occasionally I do keep them… like, in this case, Akal Ki. I love to experiment with polyrhythms, a rhythm which makes use of two or more different rhythms simultaneously, in this case, the piano and ronroco play a different time signature than the guitars and strings. It is harder on the mind to easily just grab, which allows a space in between, that holds a hint of mystery which kind of reflects how I was feeling in that moment on that lake. Not really here, not really there, rather suspended just above the surface of the water.
— Markus Sieber
It seems almost unfair that I’m sitting here, writing these words, and listening to the entire album, while you have to wait for a few more painful months for the full-length to arrive. But, I suppose the wait for all this beauty will be worth it since this anticipation is a little sweet in its own right. I hope that you at least will trust in my prediction that you will certainly enjoy the album when it drops. I’ll try my best to find the time and to remind you, but if I fail, look out for Game Trails on yet another ‘best of’ list…