Welcome back to my ⟪ REW | FF ⟫ column, in which I round up some music that you may have recently missed on your radar. First up is an album by Markus Sieber, who records and self-releases under his Aukai moniker. Sieber’s self-titled debut came out in 2016, and it took me another few years to pick up and cover his sophomore release, Branches of Sun (2018). Since then, Aukai’s music has consistently appeared not only on these pages but also on my Best of the Year selections. This latest, titled Apricity, has already grabbed a coveted spot on my Music For The Frosty Night When I Miss Your Warm Light, and I’m taking this time to revisit the album. Once again, at the heart of each composition, we find the soft and meditative strumming of Sieber’s ronroco – a Bolivian nylon-string relative of the charango (which also appears on the album) from the lute family. “The ronroco is the sound of the mountains”, said Markus about his Game Trails back in 2020, “it has this freedom, this wide-open-chest feeling of just being who you are.” On Apricity, it is also joined by the cello and soothing vocals courtesy of Anne Müller. Additional vocals appear throughout the album by Sita Ostheimer and Matias Da Via (credited here as AWARÉ). There is something truly beautiful about the simplicity of these pieces – the light fluttering of the pizzicato strings, the breeze of the synth pads, the raindrops of the piano, and the welcoming warmth of the bass. Dan Isaac Wallin‘s cover photo only adds to the overall feeling of a watercolour haze, as if one awakens in a dream inside another dream. The album was mixed and mastered by Martyn Heyne at his Lichte Studio in Berlin, wrapping the entire intimate performance into a delicate acoustic journey which is perfect for any time of the day.
Love in the Void
Another band which I consistently covered on Headphone Commute [so much so that I’m running out of new things to write!] is the Nashville, Tennessee-based duo of Andrew Thompson and Marc Byrd, releasing music as Hammock. Love in the Void is their 17th full-length album [by my count, in which I include film and game soundtracks], making it nearly an album per year since their debut in 2005. I think I must have featured every single of their full-lengths on an annual end-of-year celebration, invariably appearing on the Music For Walking And Not Crying In The Autumn Rain selection for all the right reasons. And as with all previous works by this wide-soaring open-soundscape ambient-meets-post-rock genre unique to Hammock alone, it only gets better each year. For Love in the Void, Byrd and Thompson also invite Chad Howat to share the production credits, with many appearances and contributions, the most notable of which [for me] is by Matt Kidd, whom you may also know as Slow Meadow. “Breaking from the strange monotony and abnormal norms that took hold during two years of pandemic life, Hammock returns with an album that looks to the future, seizes the present, and unabashedly relishes the experiences and bonds that bring meaning to our days.” Across the thirteen cinematic pieces, Hammock “bring guitar-forward, heart-pounding urgency to songs that shout through and shatter the static of complacency.” Continuously evolving their sound-craft further, Byrd and Thompson are the true masters of weaving, enfolding, and holding the space… the space where we feel fragile but finally safe… Highly recommended! And while you’re listening, you may want to check out this Interview with Hammock from 2016.
We All Have Places That We Miss
Hollie Kenniff‘s third full-length album is a lush and sprawling ambient-meets-shoegaze record, perfect for those early morning hours as the sun awakens with a yawn. This sonic visual is appropriate, as “much of the album was conjured in the wee hours of the morning while Hollie dealt with chronic insomnia.” As a result, the luxurious textures dozed in generous reverb wash over my studio with warm dawning light. This is the modern-day dream-pop [daydream-pop?], where soft vocals sans lyrics are complimented by lavish guitars, soundscape synths and intimate piano, sometimes contributed by her husband, Keith Kenniff, who appears on the record as Goldmund. On We All Have Places That We Miss, Hollie drifts “into reminiscence, seeking and commemorating the fondly tragic ache of half-remembered locales lost to time: A grandparent’s dim living room decorated in the tropes of a vague decade; a lonely clearing beside a trail we can’t be sure if we walked or just dreamt; the calming light of footage captured years before we were born though our feelings insist we were there with the actors on set.” Your tirelessly suppressed memories, deep feelings of nostalgia and freed moments of reminiscence will undoubtedly float up within your waking mind, and all you have to do is let it all go, breathe out, and levitate within these sounds. Perhaps you will allow a smile or a tear to grace your cheeks. These rafting atmospheres and sentimental themes explored within will immediately appeal to fans of Grouper, Julianna Barwick, and Windy & Carl. Be sure to grab your copy on a limited edition 12″ vinyl available from Western Vinyl, and check out Hollie’s 2021 release, The Quiet Drift, which I have featured on my Best of 2021 lists.