Various Artists

Affin Ambient Edition Volume 1






Affin is an internet label established by Joachim Spieth who became world-famous among coteries of Ambient lovers due to his tune You Don‘t Fool Me being the first track on the very first Ambient compilation by the Cologne-based record label Kompakt, Pop Ambient 2001. This track has been cited quite often as a modern classic, among his biggest fans are The Orb and even The Petshop Boys. In 2008, Spieth established his internet-only label Affin. The label focuses on Deep House and Minimal music, but a delightful amount of artists releases Ambient tracks of various styles and moods as well. 2012 marks an important year for the label, as selected albums and EP‘s will be released on vinyl. The compilation I am reviewing here, called Affin Ambient Edition Volume 1 and presented by Joachim Spieth himself, was released in 2009 and contains 12 tracks from artists like Markus Guentner, Gustavo Lamas and Ismael Pinkler. Quite a lot of these tracks are pretty dark, especially the tracks by Roman Rosic paint a distraught hopelessness. However, you will also find brighter, more mellow tunes. The compilation is available on iTunes and Beatport among others and complements Kompakt‘s Pop Ambient series perfectly, especially if you are a fan of Markus Guentner whose music can be found on both series. In fact, both compilations are essential to me and I look forward to both of them each year – unfortunately, only Kompakt delivers annually, while Affin editions are released irregularly.


Volume 1 features the considerable amount of 3 tracks by Markus Guentner: Look At Me is a foggy tune with drones of static noise, slowly plinking bell-like melody droplets and multiple synth layers which create a calm, inviting atmosphere altogether. The volume level is constant, the synth strings are permanent and change only slightly. An euphoric drone track, if you like. Das Vergessene (The Forgotten) is an intimidatingly melancholic drone tune: pressing, quavering one-note strings underline the hooks of a classic piano and a real violin. Slightly brighter and fuzzier synth pads are added a few minutes later which pulsate carefully. The heart-rending mood differs blatantly from Look At Me. The third Guentner track is Keep Your Eyes Closed, and it is another foggy track, but much more soothing and comforting with its sustained and droning strings of brightness and beautiful melodies realized with electronic bells. From its middle onwards, the mood shifts more and more into memories of palmy days, the fog has vanished and the song is nothing short of majestic by then while still being moderate. Two tracks by Roman Rosic transport darkness, despair and mystique to this volume. There Where Music Has Fallen Asleep features incredibly claustrophobic and occasionally cacophonous strings plus distinctly repeated synth pulses. The mood temporarily shifts to major keys, but goes back to the hopeless mood which is later intensified by strange rattles. The Promise features a 4/4 bassline and dark frantic piano staccatos reminiscent to film scenes where secret agents have to make decisions under great time pressure. Additional pumping percussion sets in and sinister horror movie strings amplify the mood of mean sarcasm, especially when they are played polyphonously later on. In fact, the beats and percussion keep hammering in such an urgent way that the tune resembles few ideas of Ambient music. But I won‘t complain! It‘s haunting, pressuring, movie-like.


Two further tracks are provided by Ismael Pinkler, and his style of music is one of a kind: he mixes gusty wind noises and wuthering storms with low-fi sound bursts and sawtooth synth pads. Desde El Sonido begins with looping turbulencies, echoey two-note pads of mystery, rusty noises of grinding rock fragments used as percussion, transmitter signals and attractive metropolis-like Doppler effect synth sounds. Even though this track evokes a forlorn mood, it is charming in a weirdly twisted way. A remarkable tune. Rutina Fantasma features more of the same mood, with field recordings of a swamp‘s midnight concert with frogs, flies and crickets, while pops, crackles, static noises and dark synth notes are playing. Whooshing laser sounds are added and increasing winds are rushing by. Another winner. Both tunes by Pinkler are definitely the most interesting additions to this volume. Joachim Spieth himself enters the volume with two of his tracks. Open consists of a permanent loop of a one-note synth wash whose sustain slowly ebbs before it is repeated again. An accompanying string accentuates the mood of exiguity, and wind-like synths float by repeatedly. A mesmerizing track of the thick and encapsulating kind. Ich features bright background strings and an acoustic guitar that sounds very immediate and near. Coruscatingly angelic synth washes are later added that bring an ethereal feel to the song which is not often heard on the edition as a whole. Echoey clicks of claves enlarge the wideness and deepness of the mix. Bright square lead, flute-like synths bring a slight New Age feeling to the mix, which is no cause for a laughing stock ever since the beautiful sounds of Stellar OM Source. The last track is Lemon Curry by Solovyev, and it features heavily warped and altered bass tones and mercurial sounds whose source I cannot pinpoint – maybe they originally came from a guitar? Permanent crackles and sprinkler hisses are visible. This dope song is very fragile and traversed by spaces and quiet moments. A curious but strangely addictive way to end Volume 1.


It is the same business as usual: whenever I hear Ambient songs that were released on predominantly club- and techno-oriented labels, I am glad and thankful for the label bosses' decision to release music like this. And once I have thanked the labels, I am shaking my head due to the limited availability. I‘m craving for more, more, more Ambient music like this, even though it consists of byproducts. Let me make this clear: none of the above tracks is in any way a byproduct! All of them are perfectly produced and offer interesting variations of the Ambient formula – especially Ismael Pinkler‘s music comes to mind, but Roman Rosic‘s pieces of despair follow closely. The rest of this compilation consists of either bright or more melancholic tunes that are perfectly suitable for cold nights in Winter. Joachim Spieth‘s selection focuses on surprisingly dark tracks, so if you prefer brighter, more ethereal Ambient music, read my forthcoming review of Affin Ambient Edition Volume 2 which was assorted by Markus Guentner. 


Ambient Review 031: Various Artists – Affin Ambient Edition Volume 1 (2009). Originally released on February 1, 2012 at