Popol Vuh

Aguirre

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Aguirre gathers recordings made between 1972 and 1974 embodying the distinctive characteristics of Popol Vuh's early-'70s sonic identity: austere analog synth textures that inspired subsequent ambient artists and organically crafted, ethnically nuanced proto-new age music. The most memorable material here derives from the soundtrack to Werner Herzog's film Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes, which chronicles an ill-fated 16th century Spanish quest for El Dorado. The film's central motif blends pulsing Moog and spectral voices conjured from Florian Fricke's Mellotron-related "choir organ" to achieve something sublime, in the truest sense of the word: it's hard not to find the music's awe-inspiring, overwhelming beauty simultaneously unsettling. The power of the legendary opening sequence of Herzog's film (a breathtaking shot of the conquistadors descending a mountain path, dwarfed by the natural beauty that ultimately consumes them) owes as much to Popol Vuh's music as it does to the director's mise-en-scène. This musical motif appears in two slightly different incarnations: "Aguirre I," which closes with Andean pipes, and "Aguirre II," featuring Daniel Fichelscher's soaring guitar melodies. Elsewhere, the cosmic sensibility of those tracks is replaced with an earthbound orientation, but the results are no less mesmerizing. Built around acoustic guitars and percussion (and a fleeting contribution from vocalist Djong Yun), the 15-minute triptych "Vergegenwärtigung" blurs the boundaries between East and West while incorporating nuances of early music. The album also includes "Morgengruß II" and "Agnus Dei," versions of which appeared on Einsjäger & Siebenjäger. Compared with In den Gärten Pharaos or Hosianna Mantra, Aguirre doesn't stand up as a consistently great album, but that's not to say that it doesn't contain some great pieces of music.

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