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Popol Vuh


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4 stars This is the beginning of one of the big names of the Krautrock movement. This is one album you can't go by from their better-known piano-dominated albums like Hosianna Mantra" and those following. Instead this dates back when Florian Fricke had little problems messing around with synthesizers, and this, their debut, proves. This album was originally released on Liberty Records. The album features two side-length cuts, the first being "Ich Mache Einen Spiegel". It starts off with lots of strange computerized sounds and strange droning sounds. Then you go in to percussion overdrive, before the "music" (if you want to call it that) mellows out with simply droning sounds. Then you have the title track which is full of sounds of traffic before it's taken over by even more droning sounds, only this time, the percussion kicks in and Florian Fricke starts messing about with some cheesy sounds off his Moog (making it almost sound like computer video games against a droning background, even if video games were unheard of when "Affenstunde" came out).

The back cover features pictures of hippies playing along (in reality, Florian Fricke playing his Moog, as well as Frank Fiedler, and non-member, but producer Bettina Fricke on percussion - by the way I'm not certain how Bettina is related to Florian). Bettina Fricke looks most like the stereotypical hippie complete with headband and flowery clothing (she looks like an escapee of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury scene). Often this album gets compared to early TAANGERINE DREAM, which like what they have done, little, if anything, features any sort of melody or tune, just lots of atonal experiments (and of course bringing up TANGERINE DREAM only makes since since in 1972, Florian Fricke did guest on "Zeit"). If you're familiar with only POPOL VUH's piano-dominated stuff, post- 1972, be utterly shocked with "Affenstunde". I only wished Florian kept on using synthesizers, he only used them one more time on "In den Gärten Pharaos" before his religious conversion (to Christianity and Hinduism) strangely compelled him to suddenly hate synthesizers and turn to the piano (although be aware that parts of "Aguirre" dates back to the "In den Gärten Pharaos" sessions). As for "Affenstunde", love it or hate it, but if you like off the wall experimental electronic music, you're certain to like this.

4 1/2 stars

Report this review (#31916)
Posted Saturday, July 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars Not to be confused with the Norwegian group of the same name and of the same era that released two albums under this monicker also developping some prog rock but less adventurous than this German band. When the two groups discovered each other's existence , the Norwegians changed their names to Popol Ace and made three further albums. Those Norwegians should deserve inclusion on this site, also.

As for the German group, this is mostly the project of Florian Fricke especially on the debut album. Popol Vuh is the Maya Quiche tribe's name for God and the Sacred Texts. The music developped on this debut is of a very experimental nature mostly electronic and Moog based. The few things I can compare it to is dgar Froese's works both solo and in Tangerine Dream's Zeit era. This becomes quickly nightmarish (as opposed to Froese's Aqua album) but stays interesting throughout the album although nowadays this sort of "music"is quite dated but still worth a spin. The title track is more of the same never violent but somber. Only some ethnic percussions accompany this bizarre stuff.

Some of the cd releases came with the title track of the second album In The Garden Of The Pharaoh (weird....... but so is the very confusing discography of Popol Vuh) which stays in the same spectrum of experimental music.

Report this review (#31917)
Posted Tuesday, March 8, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Impressive debut with a mysterious, religious, weird electronic album about human being, where man becomes man. Florian Fricke experiments the opportunities of the Moog synth to create a whole album around atmospheric, strange electronic effects. The result is unique and the approach was new in popular music. The "Dream" series are enigmatic titles, a manifesto of experimental sounds treated by the "electronic". The first track starts with concrete noises taken from the nature, then comes bizarre long continuous forms augmented by circular "cosmic" sounds. The second track directly follows the previous composition without any transition. Frantic "ethnic" drums dominates the tune, it's purely shamanistic." Dream part 3" delivers abstracted, meditative, scary sounds produced by the Moog synth (very closed to the seminal "zeit" by TD). "Affenstunde" is absolutely magic; a captivating "ethnic" composition which provides an immersive dialogue between possessed acoustic percussions and electronic loops, textured patterns. The second part of the tune reminds me Terry Riley's "Persian surgery dervishes" with its endless hypnotic organ loops. The bonus track ("train through time") on the SPV reissue is a powerful, percussive / repetitive track which progressively meditatizes the listener. The track has similar psycho-acoustic effects than Gottsching's marvellous guitar trance-like work in his "inventions". To sum up things Affenstunde is milestone in progressive electronic music, culminating at the top of the most creative rock albums of the last century.
Report this review (#55899)
Posted Friday, November 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars This album has not aged well. When first I encountered this album in the 80's, its weirdness and ambience were refreshing. But time and experience can change things....

Basically a beginner's exploration of a modular moog system disguised as an electronic soundscape, Florian does not get much out of a difficult but remarkable instrument. He may have realized this himself, as he (thankfully) sold this machine to someone who had many more ideas: Klaus Schulze.

A curiosity of electronic music more than an essential piece that you must have. Many have done the Moog more justice. Still, it can make for some interesting late night listening as you drift off. Cool, but not essential. 2.5 stars

Report this review (#66867)
Posted Thursday, January 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
1 stars 'Affenstunde' is Popol Vuh's first recording and was released in 1970. Now , forget for a second that 'Popol Vuh' recorded some great records later on and take a trip back in time. Florian Fricke a young music student (piano and composition), becomes friend with Eberhard Schoener, a German Orchestra leader, who teaches Fricke about the potentials of 'The Moog Synthesizer', a new musical device that creates electronic waveformes with an incredible potential of sounds, going from the imitation of acoustic instruments to random noise. Wendy Carlos had already showed the potential of this new muiscal device with her 'Moog' recordings of Bach (Switched on Bach).

In the spring of 1969 Fricke creates 'Popol Vuh after the proposition of 'Liberty Records' to record a 'experimental moog album' following the succes of 'the Switched on' series and hits like 'Popcorn'. You don't have to be a great musician (even if it helps) to use the moog, but you have to be a knobfiddler and know something about dynamics. Apparently Fricke missed both qualities and as his later records will show he was more interested in acoustic instruments, and more traditional melodies and harmonies, and didn't get the real potential of the 'Moog' as Klaus Schulze or Wendy Carlos in their respective fields.

This record is boring and uninteresting and contains nothing that would caracterize the great 'Popol Vuh' sound of the later records. On side one a long suite of uninspired athmospheres lacking any melodic or dynamic interest and on side two a long track, that is eqally boring with just a short passage at about 7:00, with an ulian-pipe-type-sound, that sounds like the pedal harmonium sounds that appear on later 'Popol Vuh' records, but gets completely boring after 2 minutes. The percussion work of Holger Trütsch is eqally uninspired and Fricke had still to wait for the arrival of Daniel Fichelscher to have a brillant percussionplayer.

If you want to get into Popol Vuh avoid this record and start with 'Hosianna Mantra.

Erreur de jeunesse!

Report this review (#67440)
Posted Monday, January 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Make no mistake this is an album that broke boundaries for 1970. There are many occassions on listening to this piece of music that amaze me in it's ability to confirm it is '' Many years ahead of it's time status". from the opening " plunge" into water scene to the interspacial ethereal ealry TD years obscurity Krautrock feel. IMHO Krautrock led the way to firstly ensuring dimensional listening beyond normal boundaries and secondly evolving from the ambient sparse cold frosty moonlike landscape sounds to more cohesive enigmatic electronic hypnotic sound of the mid seventies. Popol Vuh were a forerunner with Affenstunde as were TD with Zeit or Alpha Centauri. Popol Vuh went onto bigger and better thematic role playing but this history making album endorses what pioneers of other dimensional sounds that could be created.There are no specific tracks that stand out but part one assumes the format for the whole album and ensure a worthwhile prescence simlar to that of Klaus Schulze's Moondawn. A worthy 3 and a half stars maybe four for sheer tenacity.
Report this review (#78001)
Posted Saturday, May 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
1 stars Affenstunde is the debut studio album from German act Popol Vuh. Affenstunde was released in 1970 and is generally considered to be a groundbreaking album.

The music is very minimalistic and very ambient. You will find no regular drums, bass or guitar on the album and in fact most of the sounds on Affenstunde is created by moog. The album consists of two side long songs. The 21:05 minute long Ich Mache Einen Spiegel ( Translates into: I make a mirror) and the 18:57 minute long title track. Ich mache einen Spiegel is divided into four parts and the only part which is not minimalistic ambient sounds is Dream part 5 which is 4:50 minutes of random percussion ( at least that´s how it sounds to me). The title track starts with seven minutes of ambient minimalistic sounds and then what appears to be Popol Vuh´s version of a melody is played for the rest of the song. Both songs are extremely repetitive. It has been an extremely stressful experience to listen to this album for me. I expected something to happen all the time but nothing did and I´m left with the feeling that I´ve just waisted 40:02 minutes of my life.

The musicianship? Hmmm....Let´s just say that I´m having a hard time respecting mindless noodling, with no sense at all for melody. This is an experiment for the sake of it. It´s like an artist who paints with his penis ( this is a reference to Danish artist Jens Jørgen Thorsen), or lets his monkey paint for him. Yeah it was probably new and exciting when it was done the first time, but the idea soon grows old ( and it wasn´t even a very good idea to begin with if you ask me). Art for arts sake is just not my cup of tea.

The production is, well how shall I put this? Allright. It didn´t need to be though. This could have been recorded in my toilet and it wouldn´t have made a difference.

I´ve heard and read so many great things about Popol Vuh but I sure hope that it wasn´t this album people were talking about. If you like ambient soundscapes with little to no variation for forty minutes this might be your thing. All sane folks should stay away. 1 star is so deserved here. I´ll use caution when I listen to the next albums from Popol Vuh.

Report this review (#187886)
Posted Tuesday, November 4, 2008 | Review Permalink
PSIKE Team & Band Submissions
3 stars This POPOL VUH music is hailing from the electronic experimental side of krautrock. 'Affenstunde' represents the very early times in 1970. Besides the initial KRAFTWERK line-up they surely have been an inspiration for other bands - groundbreaking for the use of the Moog synthesizer and the upcoming 'Kosmische Musik' with protagonists like TANGERINE DREAM for example. And especially there is to mention Florian Fricke of course, the creative head and mentor.

But nevertheless personally I have problems to get the spiritual or artistical essence. The same problem I often also have trying to examine several pictures or sculptures. What does the artist want to express with his workout? And so it is hard for me to digest this ... electronical sort of thing - accompanied by some percussion work. Is there any definable structure or did they simply treat their percussion instruments, buttons and controls at random with the help of some mind-expanding stuff? Who knows?

The moderate Ich mache einen Spiegel suite consists of some swirling pulsating sounds with minimal variations except Dream part 5 which is dominated by tribal congas, bongos and cowbells. This partition is well done by all means but not very innovative on the other hand. The title song Affenstunde is more interesting because consisting of some variations and indications of melody. They get started with a dull deep-toned electronic session later gliding into a long meandering sentimental part.

For the musical content this is an album dedicated to diehard collectors only. But I'll add one star because it must be considered as an important historical document for the development of krautrock and progressive electronic music.

Report this review (#188356)
Posted Saturday, November 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
2 stars Affenstunde is the ground-breaking debut of Florian Fricke's electronic/ethnic/meditative project Popl Vuh. As all pioneering electronic music, this isn't an easy listen. It is music with very abstract melodic development, meaning that it has no obvious repetitious melodies that we are used to in pop music.

From a historical perspective this album is simply essential. There had been similar electronic experiments in modern classical music, but no artist in pop music had dared to go where Florian Fricke takes us to here. I'm not really sure though where 'here' is exactly. It looks like a place with no soul, so alien from anything human that I find it very hard to connect to. Not only does it abstain from melody, it also doesn't have any rhythm or emotion. It is cold mathematical music that sounds as if it could be produced by machines using electronically processed noise.

Some tracks like the opener use heavily treated organ sounds that still resonate with a deep cosmic ambience, other pieces such as part 5 seem like randomly processed samples of sheep herds in a mountain pass being chased by a shepherd gone completely berserk.

Interesting? "Sure". Listenable? "Ehm". Essential? "Quite". Any good? "Are you done asking irrelevant questions?".

Report this review (#287294)
Posted Saturday, June 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Affenstunde happens to be my favorite Popol Vuh album, and one of only two Popol Vuh albums that I actually enjoy. The music on this album is mostly experimental electronic music and it is absolutely breathtaking. The experimental moog sounds that engulf your speakers during this album really draw me in and take me on a spacial journey within myself.

The first track is mostly void of anything percussive, and the only thing in the whole world that I notice besides the endless beeping droning is my own heartbeat. "Dream Pt. 5" is remarkably more percussive, almost sounding authentically African or Indian, but without any of the tell-tale signs to affirm this connection. The hypnotic percussion takes you on a separate journey that seems to be on a completely opposite side of reality than the first, much more electronic dominated first track. "Dream Pt. 49" is made up of pleasant single notes that fade in and out of the mix, creating quite a dreamy and nightmarish atmosphere. Soon enters more single note drones that fade in and out with almost perfect syncopation with the original drones. Every time I listen to this track, a single sentence occasionally floats through my head that I feel fits the cinematic vibe here: "I'm waiting for a bus in the rain, but I'll probably be murdered before I make it home". I'm fairly certain that this wasn't the atmosphere that Fricke had hoped for in his fans, but that is something I can't control. The epic title track is a healthy amalgamation of all elements present throughout this album: tribal percussion, steady electronic drone, some beeps/boops, and some experimental electronic melodic-properties. The first few minutes are dominated by the tribal drums, but eventually give way to a pleasant done with electronic echoes possibly made by ghosts. The percussion soon enters again in a more steady fashion while the electronics play their whimsical melodies across the soundscape.

This is one of the first krautrock/electronic albums I had ever heard, and it remains one of my favorites. I would have to highly recommend this masterpiece to anyone in need of an introduction to electronic-dominated krautrock, as it did wonders for me in that area. I'm not one for soul searching in any kind of spiritual manner, but this album just kind of has that effect on you.

Report this review (#435828)
Posted Tuesday, April 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars The bitter influence that World War II left on Germany proved awfully difficult to get rid of. It was up to the first post-war generation to make a change. 1968's protests in Europe helped the contemporary youth to unite and creating a completely new subculture or a class of young, intellectual, open-minded individuals with left-wing political views, who rejected the musical influence of British and American psychedelia in search of their own identity. One of such people was Florian Fricke, a student of piano, composition, and directing at the Conservatories in Freiburg and Munich. Being a disciple of the composer Rudolf Hindemith, the brother of slightly better-known Paul Hindemith, helped Fricke in expanding his musical horizons. At that time, he also became fascinated with musical styles such as free jazz and ethnic music. In 1969, he purchased one of the very first Moog synthesizers to appear on the market. The same year, he founded the band Popol Vuh, whose name derived from an ancient Mayan manuscript (the title translating into The Book Of the Community), together with Holger Trülzsch, a percussionist, and Frank Fiedler, who dealt with the technical aspect of the group's sound. Their debut album, Affenstunde was released in 1970 under the Liberty label.

The album comprises two side-long epics: "Ich Mache Einen Spiege", which is divided into three movements, and the title track, "Affenstunde", respectively. The first part of the first suite, contrarily named "Dream Part 4", opens with a static drone including various swirling electronic and pre-recorded effects passing through. These give somewhat of an industrial effect , often sounding like technical devices. This part remains quite unchanged except for very slow frequency pulses, sometimes influencing the sound in making it a bit heavier, sometimes much lighter. Next up, "Dream Part 5" is devoted to showcasing Holger Trülzsch's percussion abilities. A person credited as "Bettina" plays Indian tabla, which really enriches the overall feel of the track, adding a very exotic, Eastern flavor. At the same time, it also points the way towards Popol Vuh's future influences. The rhythmic pace of Part 5 is steady with numerous variations. "Dream Part 49" follows the previous movements with silent, slowly pulsating sounds of Florian Fricke's Moog III synthesizer, which at times bring the sound of mellow church organ to mind. Once again, the texture remains rather static, however, towards the end, the instrument appears as if more "self-assured", becoming slightly louder at the ridge of the synthesizer wave, before descending into complete silence.

"Affenstunde" begins slightly more confidently with a steady tabla rhythm accompanied by a dark "cloud" from Fricke's synthesizer. As the piece slowly grows, one is able to hear distant effects struggling to break through. Suddenly, the beat fades away and the synth is left alone. Then, Florian Fricke plays a striking modal solo with a beautiful timbre of Moog's distinctive triangle-wave based on a static drone. This is really where his instrumental abilities come through. Tabla and various percussion instruments appear once more, but not really in the form of laying down any rhythm, but rather accompanying Fricke in his solo part, adding a bit more variety, and working in favor of dark, soporific, foggy atmospherics. In this wonderful way, the piece slowly starts to fall silent, as if falling asleep and wanting to say "good night, I sincerely hope you have enjoyed your journey."

The 2004 CD reissue of the release on SPV recordings offers one more bonus track, "Train Through Time." The piece lasts for ten minutes and is kept in a very similar fashion as the tracks from the original issue of the album, showcasing the fantastic percussion work as well as many fascinating effects from Florian Fricke's Moog.

How are musical revolutions started? It often comes down to one groundbreaking album - a one-of-a-kind. bold, uncompromising musical statement created by one or more unorthodox, forward-thinking musicians. And Affenstunde undoubtedly deserves a title of a groundbreaking work. Its peaceful, quiet nature paved the way for genres such as ambient or drone. It's not without its flaws, for sure, but is definitely worth acknowledgement and appreciation. Above all, Affensunde is at least partly responsible for laying foundation for a revolution of the German youth culture. This is not an easy work to appreciate, one might highly likely find it boring and requiring minimal musical abilities. However, I would not say this album is about showcasing skill, but rather about building atmospherics and drawing different sonic landscapes. That being said, it does require a considerably different approach from the listener. Anyhow, Popol Vuh's debut is a truly essential krautrock album and is very highly recommended!

Report this review (#1592631)
Posted Friday, July 29, 2016 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars This certainly sounds nothing like Florian's 70's albums but then this was his debut released in 1970 and he seemed to be experimenting a lot with his moog here. POPOL VUH were a four piece here with synths, tablas and percussion rounding out the instruments. I remember when I picked this up I thought that despite the poor rating I would like it given the descriptions. Well... not so much as those first two tracks in particular really annoy me, while the third track is more what I was expecting throughout this album. The final track is hit and miss so 3 stars is the best I can do.

""Dream Part 4" yes I'm skipping the long title before the first three songs. Anyway it opens with birds chirping before some brief water sounds then atmosphere. Then these high pitched bleeping sounds come in that drive me crazy. This continues until around 3 1/2 minutes but they do return. Just not into this one. "Part 5" opens with atmosphere before this annoying percussion with tablas takes over, again not my scene.

"Part 49" is much better as we get some spacey sounds and this is fairly dark and sparse with some faint percussion. The final tune is the title track at over 18 1/2 minutes. Interesting sounds come and go before the drums rumble in. It sounds pretty cool before 3 minutes. I like this. Drums stop before 5 minutes as a haunting soundscape continues. A change 6 1/2 minutes in as we get a pulsing sound with a humming over top. Blipping sounds join in and it stays this way for a long time right to the end.

I rate pretty much all his 70's albums 4 stars and up so yes this was disappointing to say the least. A low 3 stars from me.

Report this review (#1939932)
Posted Tuesday, June 19, 2018 | Review Permalink

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