Various Artists
Affin Ambient Edition Volume 2





Volume 2 of the Affin Ambient Edition compilation was released in the same year as Volume 1. This time it is Markus Guentner who presents a selection of his favorite Ambient tunes of both the Affin label and other labels such as Kompakt; however, the focus is clearly on Affin. Whereas Volume 1 was surprisingly dark, rough and eerie – with only a few mellow synthscape tunes in-between –, Volume 2 tends to a brighter and warmer variety of tracks. Most of the artists of the previous volume are gathered together again on this entry with a noteable newcomer, Roger Martinez. Another noteworthy inclusion is Joachim Spieth‘s classic You Don‘t Fool Me, one of the ten best Ambient tracks ever produced, I think. Let‘s see what else is on the second installment.


Markus Guentner provides 3 tracks on Volume 2, as he already did on Volume 1. Harbour Facility starts with the slow fade-in of a warm drone sound layer that is substituted with a crystalline synth string, which is then reunited with the warm drones. Comforting crackles are added and a sparkling bell-like fragments of a melody are playing in the background. Despite its title you don‘t get mechanical drone sounds, but a welcoming piece of contentment. Something For is an ethereal tune with multiple layers of tremoling synths and sustained drones of hisses that grow larger in the last third. While this is a sedating tune, it begs for your attention and cannot be used easily as background music, for the hissing drones are pushing. They don‘t nullify the mood but add a pressing layer to it. The 11-minute drone piece Crystal Castle starts with angelic strings and slightly darker accompaniments. I like the gorgeous spots of glittering notes on top of the mix which function as a crystalline glaze that encapsulates the dark but comforting drones. A magnificent track and Guentner‘s best out of the 3. Joachim Spieth is represented with 2 tracks. You Don‘t Fool Me – released in 2000 and featured on his EP with the same name as well as on the first installment of Kompakt‘s Pop Ambient series, Pop Ambient 2001 – is based on one of the most gorgeously warm loops I have ever heard. A dubby bassline is added later before the song swells down again. The juxtaposition of both ingredients is awe-inspiring, and this is a tune that everyone must hear, regardless of his or her primary taste in music. The second of Spieth‘s songs is Slim, a track with dominant percussion, a reverberated bass drum and rhythmical loops of synth washes. This is a very echoey track with lots of hall effects and mesmerizing additional layers. A playful element are laser-like pulses, but they don‘t distract from the seraphic soundscape.


Markus Guentner chooses 2 tracks of Gustavo Lamas, and both are among my favorites. Casete features distinctly sizzling fizzles that are sustained for almost 2 minutes before deep cave-like basslines amplify the rapturous mood not unlike Global Communication‘s 76:14. While the windy fizzles are fragile, the dubby bass and the fuzzy synth washes add a strong voluminousness and make this the deepest track on the compilation. Envueltos is again strikingly similar to the Ambient classic 76:14 with its brightly lit synths, its warm coves of meandering bliss and the in utero feeling of carefree shelter. Chimes and pulsating synth pads are the only earth-like and grounded elements – the rest is serene and otherworldly. Both tunes are very strong additions. Next is Ismael Pinkler who has captured a permanent place in my memory for his stormy tempests, his field recordings and the darker themes in his music. 2 of his songs are featured on Volume 2, and they are a lot brighter than his songs on Volume 1 which doesn‘t mean that they are overloaded with brightness, though. Llueve begins with gentle electrostatic noises, crackles, cymbals and fragments of dark melodies in the background. The most surprising addition are fragile droplets of vibraphone-like quality. This is a tune without a recognizable melody or scheme, but the static noises aren‘t blood-curdling but more laidback. The most minimal track it is for sure. Mas Flote features strings that sound claustrophobically eery in the first 20 seconds, but they turn out to be ecclesial. A field recording of distant rsolling thunders can be heard, and dominant fizzles and isolated whistles move in and out. This is once more a successful experiment by Pinkler, an artist to remember in the future! Finally, newcomer Roger Martinez is on the compilation with 2 elemental songs as well. Air consists of a sole bright string with pellucid plinks, echoey bird noises and occasional piano dots. Even though the description is very short, it is fitting as nothing else happens here, which isn‘t a bad thing but shows the focus on essentials. Earth is the only melancholic and pressing tune on Volume 2 with darkly oscillating synths, cow bells, slowly growing percussion and intense beats in the middle. A string instrument is added later which sounds occasionally sitar-like. To be honest, I don‘t like the build-up of the track, its hectical beats and the mood it evokes. But Martinez‘s Air is a winner in my book, just to make this clear!


I cannot decide which of both volumes I like best. I probably don‘t need to. Both have different foci even though the roster remains the same. If you like the melodious approach of Ambient music with mellow strings and brightly multilayered synth washes, Volume 2 is the top choice to make. Especially the songs of Gustavo Lamas are incredibly relaxing (fans of Global Communication need to check him out), and Ismael Pinkler once again delivers with his windy landscapes that are much more inviting this time. All in all, yet another success for this young and irregular series. So where‘s the next installment of the Affin Ambient Edition? After all, both volumes were released in 2009 and no entries followed in 2010 and 2011. Is this compilation dead? I don‘t think so. For one, the tactics of the predominantly Deep House- and club-oriented label haven‘t changed. There are still a few Ambient gemstones among the bass thumpers on a few EP‘s. Secondly, probably most important, is the newly established substructure of the label: there is now a dedicated marker for Ambient releases on the label called AFFINAMBIENT. The first entry is an album by Markus Guentner called Crystal Castle which contains the track with the same name of Volume 2 and all of his three tracks of Volume 1. To my mind, these are bold hints for a bright future of further Ambient releases on this label, so I will definitely keep an eye on future releases.




Ambient Review 032: Various Artists – Affin Ambient Edition Volume 2 (2009). Originally published on Feb. 8, 2012 at