|Genres||Krautrock, ambient, world, psychedelic rock, new-age, electronic|
|Labels||Liberty, Pilz, United Artists, Kosmische Kuriere, Brain, Innovative Communications|
|Amon Düül II|
Ted De Jong
Popol Vuh were a German musical collective founded by keyboardist Florian Fricke in 1969 together with Holger Trülzsch (percussion), Frank Fiedler (recording engineer) and Bettina Fricke (tablas and production). Other important members during the next two decades included Djong Yun, Renate Knaup, Conny Veit, Daniel Fichelscher, Klaus Wiese and Robert Eliscu. The band took its name from the Mayan manuscript containing the mythology of the Quiché people of highland Guatemala; the name has been translated roughly as "meeting place" or "book of the community".
Popol Vuh began as an electronic music project, but under Fricke's leadership they abandoned synthesizers for organic instrumentation and world music influences. They developed a productive working partnership with director Werner Herzog, contributing scores to films such as Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972), Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), and Fitzcarraldo (1982). The group are associated with West Germany's 1970s krautrock movement and are considered progenitors of ambient music. Today, Popol Vuh's best-reviewed works are In den Gärten Pharaos (1971) and Hosianna Mantra (1972).
The first album, Affenstunde, released in 1970, can be regarded as one of the earliest space music works, featuring the then new sounds of the Moog synthesizer together with ethnic percussion. This continued for only one more album, In den Gärten Pharaos, and material later to be released on the soundtrack to Aguirre, the Wrath of God, before Fricke largely abandoned electronic instruments in favour of piano-led compositions from 1972's Hosianna Mantra forward. This album also marked the start of exploring overtly religious themes rather than a more generally spiritual feeling within the music. The group evolved to include a range of instruments: wind and strings, electric and acoustic alike, combined to convey a mystical aura that made their music spiritual and introspective.
Popol Vuh influenced many other European bands with their uniquely soft but elaborate instrumentation, which took inspiration from the music of Tibet, Africa, and pre-Columbian America. With music sometimes described as "ethereal", they created soundscapes through psychedelic walls of sound, and are regarded as precursors of contemporary world music, as well as of new age and ambient.
The band contributed soundtracks to the films of Werner Herzog, including the aforementioned Aguirre, the Wrath of God, as well as Nosferatu, Fitzcarraldo, Cobra Verde, Heart of Glass and The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, in which Fricke appeared.
In October 2003 Klaus Schulze wrote:
Note: there are two distinct issues of the compilation Best of Popol Vuh - Werner Herzog. These are distinct from The Best Soundtracks from Werner Herzog Films, though the selections of tracks overlap.