Audion #8

May 1988 A4 28 pages

: Doubling Riders, Hapshash & the Coloured Coat, etc.

out of print / sold out!

Example article extract

"The Enigma of Florian Fricke"

Popol Vuh is the title of the Quiche Mayan Indians "bible", a fanciful book that tells the story of the Gods endeavours to create the perfect earthly being: one which would know and worship its creator.

Florian Fricke was born in Lindau (23/3/44). He started getting interested in music at an early age, went to Freiburg Music School to study classical piano when he was 15 (according to Florian this was due to his 'father convincing the authorities of the school that I was ready'). Afterwards he worked as a music critic, "shorts" film maker, and satisfied his musical interests by teaming up with bassist friend Manfred Eicher (now head of ECM records), the music they played was a type of jazz-rock. When another friend Eberhard Schoener (now leader of the Munich Chamber Opera, and composer of many synth and rock opus') bought a Moog synthesizer, Florian decided that he had to have one too: 'It was the second one in Germany' exclaimed Florian in an interview for Sounds.

The Electronic Vuh

In February 1969 Florian formed Popol Vuh with Holger Trulzsch and Frank Fiedler. After doing the soundtrack for a TV film Florian was approached by United Artists to do an LP, they recorded AFFENSTUNDE (The time of the Monkey King). This title is a strong reflection on the Mayan "Popol Vuh": an early creation, men of wood, were turned into monkeys when they forgot their creators. The two tracks here are both dominated by the Moog synthesizer. ICH MACHE EINEN SPIEGEL (I make a mirror) starts with bird twitters and rippling waves, then sploosh we're off into a Moog soundpool: a cacophonous liquid dreamscape with very sedated percussive interjections that roams, no seeps around the aural sphere. This ebbs into a multi-percussive section, both untreated and treated, that is very ethnic in nature: showing how inventive a percussionist Holger was. Finally we dive back into the soundpool, although this is far more spooky than earlier. AFFENSTUNDE has a lot more fire to it, with very lively percussives, clanking sounds and an evolving synth pulse pattern. This eventually dissolves into a choral-like synth dirge, which in turn moves into a melodic synth-scape with a melancholic solo that gains tempo when percussion is again implemented.

This album caused quite a stir, hardly surprising as it's one of the first to implement the Moog in a none "classical" setting. Reviews such as 'mystical voyage through a gargling flowing, strange sound world' (Pop), appearances on the "Beat Club TV programme and in the film "Rock in Deutschland, and AFFENSTUNDE making the top 10 LP lists, shows this. As does their being voted fourth "Newcomer band of the year" in the (German) Sounds readers poll of 1971. It also predates Tangerine Dream's ZEIT (which Florian guested on), Eberhard Schoener's MEDITATION and Walter Carlos' critically acclaimed opus SONIC SEASONINGS.

For some reason, their next album IN DEN GARTEN PHARAOS (In the gardens of the Pharaoh's) wasn't released by Liberty, but by "Mr. Cosmic Courier Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser's Pilz label (known at the time for their folk releases). Again the two track formula is implemented. The title track follows on from the previous album, waves ripple and wash from which a mournful Moog surfaces, weaving a very eerie atmosphere. Rhythmic congas appear with synth lines roaming around, gradually it gains intensity with expressive percussives, swirling ZEIT-like synthetics. The closing section features electric piano over a percussion and Moog backdrop, in fact it could have been a hint at the road Popol Vuh were to follow in the future. VUH is nothing less than a magnum opus, in fact it's one of the most powerful pieces of music I've ever heard. Cymbals and organ produce the powerful backbone of the piece, with choral synth sounds and exotic percussion used to intensify the sound further. I'm reminded here of Peter Michael Hamel's organ style, although he didn't produced his first solo until October 1972. An extract from the title track can be found on the sampler [v1].

Time Of Change

Around this time Werner Herzog (a long time friend of Florian's) asked Popol Vuh to score the soundtrack for his classic film "Aguirre, Wrath of God", which tells the story of Lope de Aguirre (an excellent characterisation by Klaus Kinski), a conquistador who because of his obsession of being the "Wrath of God" sends himself insane and unwittingly wipes out his comrades. Florian composed two themes and some atmospherics to go in the film. An album claiming to be the soundtrack was released in 1976, although it did feature other compositions as well - we'll come back to that later.

After this Florian decided to abandon the Moog "I found a certain woman-voice on the synth on the second LP and after that I was no longer interested. I'm a conservative artist, not interested in just pressing buttons, so I went back to the piano". Therefore, I imagine, it would have been quite a shock for the people who bought HOSIANNA MANTRA, as it bears little resemblance to the previous albums. Instead we are confronted by melodic ethnic inspired rock music, with nice tinkling piano cascades, engaging tamboura, and liquid guitar lines from Conrad Veit. It's all very enjoyable, but after side 1 does start to wear a bit thin. The vocals by Djong Yun are very uplifting in an angelic sort of way, and are a great asset. Surprisingly, the critics seemed to react favourably: "One of the mast beautiful and affectionate albums ever" (Musik Express).

In August 1972 Conrad along with his girlfriend Sabine Merbach and Florian decided to form a band for the purpose of live performance. So with the aid of Danny Fichelscher they reformed Gila (a band previously known for their classic psychedelic opus FREE ELECTRIC SOUND, rightly rated as one of the top-10 Krautrock albums!). The album they recorded, BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE, is a concept based on a novel about an American Indian tribe. Musically it heralds the start of a new Popol Vuh sound, albeit more psychedelic, with elements being borrowed from Amon Düül II, the old Gila and Pink Floyd (circa MEDDLE). The fusion of various ethnic musics, folk and rock here create an exhilarating new music that varies from the commercial (yes, a catchy folk song called Sundance Chant that was released as a single) to the furiously dynamic The Buffalo Are Coming.


Article by Steve Freeman

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