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


Popol Vuh



3.99 | 194 ratings

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4 stars Throughout the prog scene of the late 60s and early 70s, there were a number of artists that are known for experimenting quite wildly to create some incredibly influential artists that still have a clear impact in today's music. I feel like the extreme experimentation taking part during these times is even further exemplified in krautrock, often psychedelic bands that clearly were ahead of their time in certain respects, such as Popol Vuh and their massive contributions to ambient music as a whole, often coined as the band with the very first ambient albums. Of course if the only draw of this band was their experimental nature and nothing else, then they'd be more akin to simply an interesting band to look at, rather than one that was genuinely really enjoyable to listen to as this is.

One of the interesting aspects of this album is how spacey it sounds while containing a lot of more krautrock elements into the mix as well, particularly whenever there's drumming. The album's tone is established immediately within the first couple of minutes of the title track, with the relaxing sounds of water with a droning moog creating a very calming atmosphere that definitely has an element of spaciness to it. The drumming is what I find to be quite interesting here, due to the fact that it's quite fast paced and completely contrasts the minimalistic nature of all the other components of the track. This could be seen as a bad thing, but the tribal drumming that regularly falls into hypnotic groove works exceptionally to further add to the track's ability to engross the listener. There's also considerably more progression in this than in a lot of ambient that I've heard, as this has clear sections where things change up to some extent, with the most notable one being where everything begins to build up, the drums get faster, and then everything falls back into the same sort of groove as before, but with an additional keyboard melody over the top, which continues to play on until all that remains is the sound of water once again.

The atmosphere of Vuh is more grandiose than that of the title track, with the inclusion of the church organ as the core of the track creating a far different feel, much more ominous and intense rather than relaxing. That said, the approach remains largely the same, with long periods of droning backed by hand percussion that constantly switches between very fast paced, to extremely rhythmic and hypnotic, both of which play into the track exquisitely. This track manages to perfectly strike an odd balance between sounding downright intense and chaotic at points with how immersive yet majestic the soundscape is, yet still sound like something almost perfect to meditate to. This is the preferred track on the album to me due to the fact that I really can't think of much that sounds even close to this, or at least manages to pull off such a sound as well as this does.

This is easily what I consider to be one of Popol Vuh's best albums, as the band never went this intense before or after, with much less focus on making a merely pleasant experience displayed here, but rather taking the core concept of ambient and then creating something unique from it. This is what krautrock was all about, being unconventional and daring, in this case, not only expanding upon the ambient approach of their debut, Affenstunde, but adding a brand new spin on it through the far more intense approach taken. This not only acts as a point of interest in terms musical influence, but works extremely well as an album in its own right, and is definitely one that I've enjoyed listening to countless times.

Verdict: While not necessarily a great introduction into either ambient or krautrock, this is a very impressive album, both for how ahead of its time it feels, and for how well the album works in its own right, capturing so much intensity at points while still remaining disinctly meditative, leading to a deeply enjoyable album overall.

Kempokid | 4/5 |


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