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Popol Vuh - In Den Gärten Pharaos CD (album) cover


Popol Vuh



3.98 | 176 ratings

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5 stars Germany beckons

Florian Fricke is mostly known for the haunting soundtracks he provided for the legendary German film maker Werner Herzog, but what most people fail to realise is the impact he had on the early progressive electronic scene. He would of course never admit to this, but then again Florian never thought his early experimentations with the Moog lll were any good. This was also the main reason for him shapeshifting into the acoustic spiritual powerhouse he became after the release of this bewilderingly stunning album.

In den Gärten Pharaos was thus the last real electronic album of Popol Vuh, before the big Moog responsible for all the magic mayhem and alien sounds, got sold to Klaus Schulze, completely unaware of the awaiting space voyages it was to undertake. On this album you face the instrument in a warped embryonic state. Sharp and electrically chirping around the edges, Florian puts as much emphasis on the jittery quality of the Moog, as he does the beautiful yearning drones that lie waaaay in the back of the chords. Compared to say a vocalist, it would translate into a strange enigmatic form of gargling.

Entrancing, hypnotising and infinitely tribal in their expression, the African drums accompanying the title track do exactly nothing to soothe the avantguarde nature of the synths. Although starting with the most gorgeous watery sounds, it quickly turns into a huffing and puffing beast of cacophonous Moog splashes and galloping rhythms. At this point your subconsciousness has probably left the building, and you're now sweeping deliriously back and forth in a fire-storm of trance inducing music. The real part of the genius though, happens when this raucous unfiltered commotion reaches its final border, the place where music seizes to exist and turns into noise; right there and then a soulful Fender Rhodes releases the piece from all its tensions, and like a colossal mountain of relief the atmosphere elegantly loosens up and develops wings - taking the remainder of the track into unknown heights of beauty.

This is however not an easy listen. The time it takes for you to get to that monumental moment where the waters shift, and you suddenly get melody and concord, - that amount of time will have even the most seasoned music fan growing nervous and unwieldy(that is the point though). I have come to love the bulky tribal feel of it, but first after I realised what it really was: Western raga. This album basically revolves around the same principles as the Indian raga. It's that same insisting tangential force, where music develops as it goes - metamorphosing in the hands of the musicians.

The second cut Vuh is no stranger to this endearing trait, although it comes off decisively more silky. Without the atonality and bumps of the first side, the music now has the opportunity to branch out in these floating airy constellations. Flirting around with the hovering presence of a church organ, Florian guides the listener on a journey through the clouds and beyond. The infusion of a gong and the subsequent addition of dreamy cymbals and subdued tribal drumming, makes the track become otherworldly. This could very well prove to be music from the ancient civilisation of Atlantis...

A lot of different badges are associated with Popol Vuh. Devotional Krautrock, holy music and psychedelic folk are all stickers I've seen thrown at this band, yet Florian himself often used the term Shamanism music. I think I prefer his explanation...

There's no bass, no guitar, no song and, at times, no concord whatsoever. Now how on earth does this album then continue to captivate seekers of experimental music from across the globe? I think it's the trip, pure and simple. It's very seldom you find albums that are all about the trip. Often they get watered down, and re-recorded in order to be more approachable and 'normal'. In den Gärten Pharaos is anything but normal though, and I thank my lucky stars for that. Listening to this record sends me on a thrilling adventure through mind and body. It puts me in a deep trance, and summons all of my most illustrious images of life, nature and the universe - culminating in short glimpses of ecstasy, where goosebumps wash over me like a series of rough tidal waves.

Guldbamsen | 5/5 |


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