Article On Kaput Mag

Photo by Sandra Schürlein

Joachim Spieth’s new ambient album “Ouisa” invites you to deal with your own inner self


When I first met Joachim Spieth, he was still a teenager. Thomas Venker and I met him at one of our events – at that time we ran the label onitor, the fanzine Harakiri and played a lot together – and although he was much younger, we became friends with him. Soon after, he debuted with his “Abi 99” maxi on the then newly founded Kompakt label from Cologne, which caused a worldwide sensation a little later. There was a lot of international press celebrating German minimal techno – including an article in “The Wire”. In the middle of all this was the teenager Spieth.

Anyone who experienced him back then quickly realised: Joachim is not someone who just does this for fun, he has a mission. Even back then he could lecture for hours on electronic music. And indeed, he is one of the few from our then promoter, fanzine and label environment who still lives exclusively from music and operates worldwide. With all the hardships that come with it, especially in the current phase.

He subsequently released several 12″s on Kompakt that moved stylistically between techno and idiosyncratic house interpretations. During this time, he created “You Don’t Fool Me”, which was chosen as the opener of the first “Pop Ambient” issue in 2001 and, from today’s perspective, can probably be described as the first landmark of his ambient music.

Joachim started working with ambient music at an unusually young age, as young as perhaps only Markus Guentner, with whom he has been linked since then not only by his very early entry into the scene, but also by a professional and personal friendship. Ambient was also to have its place on his own label Affin from the very beginning, discovered through his own search and through demos he received. Affin also provided a forum for him to consistently develop himself further.

After an ambient record by Güntner was released on Affin in between, they ignited the next stage twenty years after the beginning of their friendship – and cooperated for a track on Spieth’s latest ambient album “Ousia”, which is released these days. The two promptly named the track Mutuus – as an allusion to a symbiosis that we might hear more of.
After “Tides”, “Ousia” is the second purist ambient album by Joachim Spieth; it is released shortly after his contribution to the latest Pop Ambient 2021 (“Libration” – together with Pepo Galán). While “Tides” was still characterised by a continuously present, never-ending carpet of sound – following the image of constantly high tides – “Ouisa” goes a step further: here everything moves in waves that swell and subside again. Like everything by Spieth, “Ousia” also lives from an extraordinary sonic brilliance – and here, too, his always great mastery in setting filters comes to the fore.

The waves of sound = feeling swell, reach their peak – and immediately give the listener space again to create a safe retreat for the psyche. And so you are constantly waiting to see what happens next. Without wanting to sound pathetic: Ousia is more than the answer to what happens when the dance floor has emptied. The album turns ambient into a much bigger tool than just background music for getting down. On the contrary, it can even send a listener who is mature enough really into it – provided you feel like looking into your own soul a little.
The gloomy is combined here with the light – the misty landscapes regularly clear – and in the form of a piano chord with a lot of reverb, the cloud cover tears open and the clear view of the beauty of the landscape (or of one’s own soul?) becomes free.

Joachim Spieth’s music (also his very deep techno tracks) could always be seen as psychoanalytical patterns. If you let yourself go with it and are not afraid, you can go on a great journey into your own ego with “Ousia”. A track here can evoke the most diverse images and states during its duration: The unknown and the unconscious become familiar, and a liberating chord suddenly pushes the realisation into the uncertainty that one has now heroically completed the journey and rises as a Phoenix from the ashes of the nebulous surface sounds.

Although the music is never exhausting or unpleasant, it is still advisable not to just listen to it casually – it is better not to lose any nuance in background noise. The tension actually increases with close listening. The best thing really is to take your time, lie down in bed with your headphones on and beam yourself away into your own lockdown. Then it becomes exciting to see how everyone receives the different sonic anchor points of the tracks for themselves individually:
What world am I dreaming myself into?
Am I by the sea?
In the forest?
Is it a southern or a northern landscape?
Is the arctic fox coming around the corner – or a shepherd from Arcadia?
And for some it might be the empty factory hall at the end of the last rave she/he can still remember – and then suddenly the sun rises behind the dirty window. Personally, it’s been a long time since I’ve heard ambient music where I was so curious about what would happen next within each track. And it has to go on, after all.

Markus Koch in January 2021

The original version of this article appeared at Kaput Mag

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