CHOICE CUT – Popol Vuh ‘Revisited & Remixed (1970-1999)


Popol Vuh / Revisited & Remixed (1970-1999)

CD / Digital

SPV / Released June 2011

Where do you start with an album so varied it spans sounds from more than 40 years of musical history? Should it be at the beginning, with an explanation that Popol Vuh was the first progressive rock band in Germany to use a Moog, and featured on many of the soundtracks to Werner Herzog’s films. Or does the opening simply need to state that there are some incredible tracks on this album?

Sprawled over the two discs are 150 minutes of pretty magical music, commemorating the ten year anniversary of founding member Florian Fricke’s death. The first is a collection of the group’s original work, which makes for an immersive experience that’s no less challenging than you might expect. But then it’s also quite beautiful, in an experimental, theatrical kind of way.

Futurescapes worthy of Ridley Scott are painted in the opener, Aguirre I Lacrima di Rei, a piece of neo-classical electronica that’s a rare example wherein epic is not an overstatement. Elsewhere In Your Eyes‘ glittering chimes lay out a percussive rhythm that’s straight from a Beverly Hills Cop montage, while Train Through Time offers a cacophony of drum patterns and seemingly freestyle woodwind and synth work, at once carving a fascinating totem of abstract arrangements while threatening to bore a whole in your mind’s eye.

Then, of course, there is another CD of contemporary reworkings that come from some legendary producers, and stand as an impossible to resist compilation. Here Peter Kruder’s remix of Aguirre I & II forms a richly textured, ambient backbone that gradually creeps a soft drum underfoot before dropping us off with The Orb’s Thomas Fehlmann. His Flow Edit of Schnee grows with grooves and compressed hi-hats as warm waves of background synth create an inviting wall of dubbed mainroom goodness. Complete with slight strings and metronomic hook it’s an emotive but commanding listen.

A Critical Mass, A.K.A. Ame, Dixon, and Henrik Schwarz, also do the business in an instantly memorable way. A far cry from the spoken word tech popularised by Dear and Co one might expect when house meets folk, here the outfit take apart Heart Of Glass and redress it, while still keeping the focus on ‘real Earthiness’, offering siren-like shrill female vocals, developing a druggy, rhythmic guitar (after having the voice lessons houston) and piano medley of haunting, other worldly music that’s not a million miles away from The Velvet Underground. And then there’s the club stuff.

Take for instance Roland Appel’s darker than dark version of Through Pain To Heaven / Kyrie, the spooky, arabesque voices, and relentless progressive house tempo therein, a track with Sasha written all over it. Whereas Mouse On Mars deliver a new school explosion of laser gun noises, loose breakbeats, analogue loops, and warbling low ends constructed from the same source material. Part history lesson, part proof of electronic music’s overwhelmingly broad scope, this post humus journey into the eccentric is bizarre in extremis, but that just proves the collective genius behind it.

Popol Vuh / Juno