Markus Sieber is Aukai, purveyor of ambient soundscapes. He hasn't always been that, though. In the '90s, Sieber played in rock bands in East Berlin, and after that he ventured into acting in both St. Petersburg and in his native Germany. His upcoming, eponymous LP—inspired in part by a move to Mexico and his life travels at large—will mark his return to music. World, meet Aukai.
The now-Colorado-based composer worked with with some formidable artists on Aukai. Nils Frahm-collaborator Anne Müller appears on cello, and Jamshied Sharifi (Laurie Anderson) plays keys. Martyn Heyne, the engineer behind Frahm's opus, Spaces, recorded and mixed the album—at the urging of Frahm himself, no less—and Mandy Parnell (Bjork, Aphex Twin, Brian Eno) handled mastering responsibilities. Together, the team helped Sieber realize the ambient, nostalgia-filled LP.
"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."
Today, EARMILK is premiering the record's latest single, "Hidden." As Sieber suggests, the track has the wistful sheen of an imagined world—not unlike a fairy tale. Its plucked motif—played on an Argentinian string instrument called the ronroco—evokes a timeworn and folksy rusticity that might have been heard within castle walls. Eventually, a piano joins in duet, shimmering above the plucked strings. Low electronic tones rumble below, and "Hidden"—in contrast to its name—divulges the riches within.
"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."