Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Popol Vuh-In Den Gärten Pharaos (1971)

"Popol Vuh’s second release is notable for a number of reasons. Firstly, for its rather ingenious in its use of fledgling synthesizer technology. While following along the lines of other German pioneers like Tangerine Dream, Fricke essentially constructs a completely unique expressive vocabulary with the instruments. While Tangerine Dream albums like Zeit and Alpha Centauri were journeys to the furthest reaches of space, where human contact was not only impossible but unwanted, Fricke’s vision has to be considered far more "spiritual", for lack of a better word. The sounds of running water and consistently morphing bongo rhythms behind the title track create a three dimensional soundscape of serene bliss. Fricke’s Moog and synthesizer lines shimmer here, and while minimal and restrained in note selection, he manages to engage the listener in a direct dialogue that is simply tantalizing. Secondly, this is really the only place in the Popol Vuh catalog you’ll hear such an extraordinary work of this style. Sure, the later Popol Vuh albums are brilliant in their own right, but the lack of synthesizers and an intentional change of aesthetic leave Affenstunde and In den Garten Pharaos as the sole torchbearers for the kind of revolutionary stuff the group were doing early on. Incidentally, Pharaos is by far the better album of the two.

Divided into two rather distinctive side-long pieces, the album retains a consistent aesthetic that is powerful and effective throughout. While I’ve already sung the praises of the title track, the second piece "Vuh" might be even better. Here, Fricke employs what sounds like a church organ in the form of dramatic, sustained chords that make the piece far more intense and unrelenting. These lay the groundwork for the development of the piece. A percussive backdrop, accompanied by various other sound effects, builds around the organ theme, creating ebbs and flows in the intensity level. In all, it’s masterfully composed, and careful attention will result in the listener feeling those chord changes resonating throughout the depths of the soul.

In all, this has to be considered one of the Krautrock movement’s essential items. Fans of early Tangerine Dream will easily lap this one up, and others who may have found records like Alpha Centauri emotionally frigid may warm up to In den Garten Pharaos. An excellent album deserving of its legendary status."

Holy fuck. That's all I can say when I listen to this utter masterpiece. I feel pretty dumb putting one of the all-time best ambient albums by one of the all-time best ambient bands into words. All I can say is that you MUST experience this. MANDATORY. SPELLBINDING. INTENSE. EUPHORIC. INCREDIBLE. INSERT LOFTY ADJECTIVE. Go for the second track "Vuh" by the way.


1 comment:

Sans Woz said...

YES -- truly one of the most original and...fucking powerful jams I've imagined; right up there with Sun Ra's "Atlantis" -- and how about the title track to "Bruder des Schattens, Sohnes des Lichts"? That's THE Popol Vuh jam to me,with Vuh being a close second.