Album Reviews

Markus Guentner: Onda

With his latest release, the German producer takes us on a journey like never before.

Regensburg-based producer, Markus Guentner, has been flying Kompakt flag for some time now. With a body of work that zeroes in on the touchstone label’s mission statement of atmosphere and texture, Guentner released his first works for Kompakt in 2001 with the Regensburg EP, featuring again in 2005 with 1981.

Never one to do things by halves, the German artist has worked alongside fellow ambient veteran, Rafael Anton Irisarri, Canadian cellist Julia Kent, and producer Brock Van Wey. It’s the latter with whom Guentner shares a creative affinity, the two having spent their respective careers lulling their listeners into a state of bliss.

While perhaps something that you’ve heard before from the usual suspects in the world of ambient composition, on Guentner’s latest release, Onda, it’s vital to point out that the feeling of this record transcends all other concerns.

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Throughout the world of music journalism, sometimes it’s important for a writer to reveal their true self. Whilst difficult, too many times you sense the author masquerading their true essence behind words, however it’s artists like Guentner and albums Onda that open up the possibilities to go beyond unpicking the inner mechanics of a record and instead try to explain the feeling of it. I guess that’s art and this is the defining reason why we choose to write about it.

While Guentner’s prior works consist of meticulously crafted collages of sound, Onda is a bleak, rolling mist that reaches directly into the mind’s eye.

Markus Guentner - Onda

With the ghostly opening title track, Guentner creates a filmic blur. Likened to an orchestra in slow-motion, while their worlds may never align, oddly enough, he creates a similar environment to the narcotic noir of Bohren & de Club of Gore. Both undoubtedly different, but Guentner’s sonic waves of mystique match the mystery of his fellow German adversaries.

Prisa and Sund are like static dispatches from the heavens. Like a letter from a lost soul, it plays into the fantasy world Guentner creates purely through sound. Think loscil and Fennesz presenting the perfect composition. On Nava, the swelling build-ups and fragile soundscapes continue as the same tension and emotional force reaches breaking point.

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The orchestral Sahar glitters with the kind of rich modulations designed for expensive sound systems and high volumes. While the drone proves evasive during Onda, through the inner grains of sound it rises to prominence here.

Ending with Akijana, Guentner adds new textures of darkness into the cold haze this album is enveloped in. Suitably austere and sunken in gloom, there’s a reality with these recordings that are purely crystallising, and while the effect may be different for some, essentially these are soundscapes that stir up thoughts of the past. Those we’ve loved, lost, and moved on from. The beauty and anguish of life, and Guentner manages to encapsulate the drama through a document of iron-grey sonics that are the finest he has given us yet.

Onda is out now via Affin. Purchase from Bandcamp.

By Simon Kirk

Product from the happy generation. Proud purple bin owner surviving on music, books and LFC. New book, Welcome To Charmsville, available from all major vendors.

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