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

IN DEN GÄRTEN PHARAOS

Popol Vuh

 

Krautrock

3.98 | 128 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Krautrock's most enigmatic artist, Florian Fricke, was (despite his relatively low profile) a major player in the Kosmische vanguard of the early 1970s. But unlike the intergalactic voyages of fellow synth apostles EDGAR FROESE or KLAUS SCHULZE, his own albums under the monicker POPOL VUH explored likeminded musical terrain much closer to home, often with deep ethnic roots in other, older cultures.

Popol Vuh's second album and first true masterpiece begins almost exactly where the debut album "Affenstunde" had left off a year earlier, with a side-long (on vinyl) proto- ambient title track built from a thin blanket of minimal, primitive Moog synthesizer noises, tucked around a bed of exotic percussion (sounding like conga drums being played in a distant room, dimly heard through several layers of plywood).

But at a point near the 13-minute mark something remarkable happens. The eponymous garden suddenly blossoms with the appearance of Fricke's gentle acoustic piano, and like a butterfly emerging from its synthetic chrysalis the music suddenly takes wing. The balance of the track (another five or so minutes) is delicate, haunting, slightly jazzy in a Teutonic sort of way, and totally enchanting, offering listeners a preview of the Popol Vuh sound after Fricke's religious conversion to strictly acoustic instrumentation on subsequent albums.

But don't allow yourself to become too relaxed: on the flipside of the original LP is the awe- inspiring twenty-minute mantra known as "Vuh". This is a different order of music altogether: an epic, mind-altering wall of sound blending huge sustained chords played on a cathedral organ with choral effects and noisy sheets of percussion, sounding at times almost Tibetan but closer resembling high mass in a sacred subterranean pre-Christian temple.

Visitors to these (and other) pages can grow old counting every instance of the word 'spiritual' in connection with the albums of Popol Vuh. But unlike the sledgehammer preaching of other musicians (and I'm not specifically picking on NEIL MORSE) this is the real deal: a truly visionary experience of near-mystical power and musical beauty, expressed entirely without the crutch of words. Listening to "Vuh" at head-filling volumes (between a pair of really good headphones, if possible) recalls to this mind some of the unearthly landscape paintings of another German Romantic, Caspar David Friedrich, often depicting ruined gothic abbeys in stark but luminous winter woods.

KLAUS SCHULZE was just one of Fricke's contemporaries who clearly learned something from listening to this album. The vast organ chords at the climax of "Satz: Ebene", from his debut solo album "Irrlicht" (released just one year afterward), were obviously sired by the good example of "Vuh".

Later Popol Vuh albums would aspire toward other, very different epiphanies. But this one marked a glorious end to Fricke's pioneering exploration of the Moog synthesizer; hereafter he would confine himself to acoustic keyboards and effects, in search of another, more organic synthesis of music and emotion.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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