By Blake Parker
The recent release of Aukai (Markus Sieber), Branches of Sun, is one of the most gorgeous, genuine pieces of music to be heard in 2018 so far. The music is crafted with an expert hand and conveys peaceful loneliness, childlike hopefulness, and an overwhelming calm across the 12 tracks of the album. Even without knowing the premise of how the album was created, it emits the spirit of nature in its purest form – absent of any other human influence – to an indisputable degree.
The album’s creation is worth learning, though, as it can add a new dimension to the music beyond simply listening. Sieber took a deliberate and unhurried approach to this album, building it meticulously day by day in the recording environment of a lone cabin deep in the woods of Colorado. Having himself a background in a more rustic style of living while he was a kid in Dresden, Germany, Sieber welcomed this atmosphere like an old friend and set out to record the music of Branches of Sun over a careful and deliberate period of time. Alongside him throughout the process were various musical contributions from the likes of his wife, Angelika Baumbach, and brother, Alex Nickmann, as well as Anne Müller, Jamshied Sharifi, Bogdan Djukic, and Miguel Hiroshi, all of whom have esteemed backgrounds in the music world.
The music itself embarks the listener on an immediate journey. The first two tracks, Colorado and Oars, work together to open wide a world of bitter cold, vast open skies that seem taller than normal, and pointy evergreen trees capped with snow on the horizons. Colorado specifically communicates a sense of utter alone-ness that is so immersive listeners may literally feel that they are there with Sieber in that cabin, far from civilization, in the cold mountains. This feeling can even seem frightening in a beautiful way, but Oars quickly follows to contrast this with a sunny, warm sound that is reminiscent of the beginnings of spring in a place plagued by snow and cold.
Across the entire album is a vastness and wild sense of nature in its most raw form: that which is unaltered by human hands. The music takes time to convey the intense power of nature in this form, but also its unrivalled beauty and delicacy that is visible only to those who take the time to look. Sieber has always had an eye (or rather, ear) for this element of nature, and has always captured it well within his music, but this latest release is by far the most successful album yet in this regard. Branches of Sun is an album which deserves the highest praise for these reasons and more, and if nothing else, hopefully, this review can inspire some to listen to it, that wouldn’t have otherwise.
Get Branches of Sun on vinyl or CD at Aukai's Bandcamp store.