Daniel Fichelscher and Florian Fricke of Popol Vuh

There are many roads to lead to the same destination. As I continue finding new ways to take this theme I have running in my head for August, a grand driving playlist (just a snapshot in time for this year), I have to resolve that not all hard driving songs will necessarily feel as hard-nosed and that certain meditative homecoming songs might feel one and the same as the driver. Its a knotty thought, one that I hope to untangle with the start of this post. Popol Vuh, is another brilliant Krautrock band, one that I will present two songs from “Kleiner and Krueger”, the window rolled down driver, and “Morgengruß”, the sunlit song to bring you home.

Founded and led by Florian Fricke at the beginning of the ’70s, this a group best know for their work soundtracking a vast amount of great Werner Herzog films: Fitzcarraldo, Aguirre, Cobra Verde, Nosferatu and many more. This work had one overriding theme: their ability to use acoustic and electric instruments together to present an almost Neoclassical sound that dignified the old world sound but presented how it can easily fit into our modern way of thinking. Its a varied sound that verged on genres that didn’t exist then, as we know them now; New Age Music, ambient, and World music specifically. What it sounds like to me, is the feeling of crisp air as you inhale and exhale deeply to calm and cleanse your mind. Its truly some, if not the best, meditative music out there, in my humble opinion. What it does, is sorta prepare you to where I’m going to next (or we, if you’re still along for the ride)…first a bit north to England, and then finally for a longer sojourn down south somewhere in the good ole US of A…and experience/read about music that is frequently maligned and as easily dismissed.

Anyway off the soap box, and quickly into the run of play. I’ve gotta highlight the first track, which serves as a mini-crash course into the great sound that Florian was exploring. Florian, started out as one of the first pioneering Moog musicians out there. He used this huge modular synthesizer to create droning or sometimes arpeggiated music, as in In De Garten de Pharaos and Affestunde, which would attempt to mimic the circular music of Sufi dervishes or the ethereal choral music of Eastern Orthodox Christian music. Finding that this synthesizer limited the scope and sound that he wanted to expand into, he completely rejected any synthesized or electronic instruments. His new calling to make music that could be pantheistic required a human touch. This new wider frame of music is honestly too large to describe but these two short tracks give you a taste of what writ large he was trying to do.

Einsjäger & Siebenjäger Recording Session

“Kleiner Krieger” [Little Krieger] the opening track from one of Popol Vuh’s masterpieces 1974’s Einsjäger & Siebenjäger, One Hunter and Seven Hunters, is a snapshot of the exterior ziggurat of sound that most of their uptempo songs were. This song presents the dual guitar interplay, both acoustic and electric 12-string, that combined breathlessly together to present the panoramic sound they were going for. You’d hear it combine with oboes, drums, vocals, and other classical instruments in other great works of theirs. Here, they sound like brush strokes preparing you for some kind of sonic vista you’ve yet to see.

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Listen to Kleiner Krieger at Grooveshark.

Hosianna Mantra era Popol Vuh

“Morgengruß” [Sun Salutation], also from the same album, is a sonic meditation of yogic expressions. As a yoga practitioner, like Florian was as well, we all know the symbolic importance of greeting the Sun. Its what makes us human, this ritual of becoming aware of a new day beginning and a cyclical new start in our journey as beings on this planet. These are rituals in life, in yoga you practice this through set sequences, in day to day life its whatever daily routine you do after you open your waking eyes and process your surroundings, but its always some kind of cyclical affirmation that hey: I’m here and changes are occurring.

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Listen to Morgengruß at Grooveshark.

Before, I even practiced yoga, I always wondered how Florian and Daniel Fichelscher (of Amon Duul II fame) got that sound with their guitars and what the meaning of the song was. Only now I realize that it’s their attempt to sonically show this ritual. I mean, that’s clearly why the song starts out with a single guitar finding its way to include itself with the larger scope of the song that kicks in at the 30 second mark. The rituals we have, or the main ritual of life itself, for all of us is set, we all are born, exist, then expire. Our life can get lost in that trance if all we do is go along with the ritual, however, there are ways to transcend a ritual, its when you’re aware of the changes that occur along its set path. Then it becomes something else.

Now, I’m more aware of all the changes in the song that keep it feeling refreshing to hear, and they’re all quite majestic: there’s Danielle’s engrossing lead guitar work, Florian’s harmonizing double-tracked 12-string acoustic, and that always present (in various states of volume) inquisitive acoustic melody that started the whole shebang. I don’t know, for me, this is the kind of music that makes me think that some of the most best spiritual music is the one done by the Omnists who see the destination beyond the trees. With that in mind, I’ll continue traveling a new musical road tomorrow…

Bonus track, Popol Vuh performing “Kyrie” from their masterful Hosianna Mantra album:

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