POPOL VUH - An eternally searching visionary

10. December 2021

Popol Vuh

POPOL VUH - Ein ewig suchender Visionär

After five groundbreaking albums by the Krautrock project Popol Vuh around the spiritual visionary Florian Fricke were re-released two years ago in the LP boxset "Vol. 1: The Essential Collection", a second one now follows with "Vol. 2: Acoustic & Ambient Spheres", which contains four more works by the music collective: two soundtracks for films by Werner Herzog ("Herz aus Glas" and "Cobra Verde"), plus the classic "Seligpreisung" as well as the lesser-known album "Agape - Agape". Reason enough for eclipsed to take a closer look at the phenomenon Popol Vuh: What makes Florian Fricke's music so unique?

In the liner notes to the box set "The Essential Collection" Dolf Mulder writes that the music recorded by Florian Fricke with Popol Vuh was that of a visionary. Fricke not only integrated elements of electronic music, progressive rock and far-eastern sounds into his compositions, but also paved the way for genres such as ambient, trance and psychedelic rock. The fact that Popol Vuh is commonly associated with the Moog synthesizer and thus with electronic music is due to the first two albums "Affenstunde" (1970) and "In den Gärten Pharaos" (1971), which were recorded with this instrument. However, this ignores the fact that Fricke already turned to "organic" sounds on the B-side of the latter LP and subsequently used exclusively acoustic instruments on Krautrock classics such as "Hosianna Mantra" or "Seligpreisung"

The Moog Pioneer

At the time, Fricke was only the second German musician to own a Moog synthesizer, after Eberhard Schoener (who in the late 1960s actually lived just a few blocks away from Fricke in the small Bavarian town of Miesbach). No wonder, since the cumbersome instrument cost around DM 60,000 at the time. Since Fricke's wife Bettina von Waldthausen came from a wealthy family, she allowed herself the luxury of giving her husband - who had studied piano at the conservatory but initially worked as a film critic for the "Spiegel" and the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" in the late 1960s - such a device

With the help of this synthesizer's otherworldly sound, Fricke searched for new ways of spiritual expression; the spacy sound result, however, arose not least from the Moog's almost unmanageable operation, which forced Fricke to experiment. "For us, the Moog synthesizer means the possibility of creating sounds we've never heard or even suspected before," he explained in the early 1970s. "You can create about seven billion different sounds, and each sound represents a different feeling that you could have. The music you can make with the Moog just encompasses the possibilities of human feeling."
He borrowed the name of his project - it's hard to call it a band, since the frequently changing personnel always conformed without exception to Fricke's musical visions - from the Mayan holy book, the "Popol Vuh" ("Book of Advice"), in which he sought spiritual enlightenment

Fricke recorded "Affenstunde" at his Miesbach home, percussively supported by Holger Trülzsch, while Frank Fiedler was responsible for the stereo mix of the synthesizer sounds. The back cover illustrates what Fricke and his cohorts meant by making music together - a scene that krautrock historian David Stubbs describes, slightly smugly, as follows: "Fricke in a sleeveless sheepskin top, tending to his Moog like a ham radio operator, drummer Holger Trülzsch, draped in Afghan fur, sits astride his drumheads, while Bettina Fricke, Florian's wife, who co-produced the album and designed the cover, tends to her tabla." Meanwhile, the album did not become a great success; at the time, only 3,000 copies were sold ...


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