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Aaaahhh!! Wow!

Yes, you read me right: Wow!  M. is impressed! :-)

A large chunk of yesterday found me investigating POPOL VUH.

This came up in my recommendations on emusic.com.  Based on... what exactly, I am not sure... partly on previous downloads, I guess... the emusic.com machine mostly thinks I like black metal, obscure experimental electronica and Armenian folk music.  (Hey, I suppose everyone needs a bit of each of those in their life.  Especially the Armenian folk music!  Did You Know that the duduk - a rather lovely, haunting, Armenian wind instrument - is made from the wood of the apricot tree?  Well, you do now...!)  But every now and again it pulls out something else from under a pile of dusty old LPs and sends me off on a mini musical detour.

I'm not a great Krautrock aficionado - and truly, that must be one of the least informative genre headings ever.  The music that gets filed under 'Krautrock' is incredibly diverse - I know this from only the smallest sampling of a handful of well-known bands.  To be honest, this is one of the Big Musical Areas I've kind of avoided over the years.  It seems Large And Serious, and Serious isn't generally my strong point.  Maybe I was concerned that I'm just too shallow to 'get it'...

I guess Krautrock is the music equivalent of wine appreciation.  From the outside it seems intimidating, solemn, and fraught with opportunities to come off as a bit of an idiot because you don't know how to pronounce 'Roedelius' or 'Kosmische' (...or 'Gewurztraminer'!).  And when in the presence of your peers, you might just find yourself standing there rather awkwardly, going "That's, um, nice...?" because suitable phrases like "trance-inducing industrially-inspired rhythm" (...or indeed "discernible undertones of chalky terroir"!) escape you...  Then all the cool people wearing the designer glasses (...or holding the designer glasses!) turn and stare at you as if you're a complete moron. ;-P

Anyway... never one to be outdone by nerves in the presence of potential musical enjoyment, occasionally I put Neu! on in the office (if only because the 'motorik' sound goes so well with menial admin. tasks!), and what little I've heard of Faust impressed me way more than I thought it would.

Well, I gave a listen to some samples of Popol Vuh.  The word 'Krautrock', more so than usual, is pretty meaningless here.  They (well, Florian Fricke really: the composer behind Popol Vuh, possessed of one of the Coolest Names In Rock!  Although It's Not Really Rock!!) began typically enough for their times with a giant-enormous super-scary moog synthesiser (the kind with all the wires hanging out and no instruction manual!), and made two innovative and influential albums that way (the samples sound fantastic, I think I'll enjoy these!), before Herr Fricke decided that synthesised music was dead and cold, and began using acoustic instrumentation.  The results, based on what I've heard so far, seem to have been stunning: limpid, serene, spiritually-inspired, gentle, clever - in that excellent way of simple-sounding music that is actually very precisely poised and balanced - incorporating diverse ethnic influences without sounding like an example of that throw-in-another-Tuvan-throat-singer-and-some-gamelan/super-annoying-new-age-world-fusion type stuff.

There is a huge amount here to enjoy: many albums, most of which are considered good (many excellent).  I won't get into wittering on about how their discography is a minefield of confusion and multifarious tracklist versions, nor will I get on to the topic of Werner Herzog film soundtracks.

All I'll say is that this is fascinating music, which I'm definitely going to hear more of.

From my preliminary explorations, there doesn't appear to be a huge amount of info out there, but an excellent website in English is here - and a thoroughly comprehensive article, written by a true enthusiast, is here.


( 6 confidences — Confide in me... )
(Deleted comment)
Mar. 24th, 2009 02:30 pm (UTC)
Haha, I was too intrigued to wait for my download allowance to refresh (and let's face it, there can never be too much music...) so I upgraded my subscription and picked up Affenstunde straight away. ^_^ It'll take more listens to get my mind around it properly (music without a conventional structure always takes a few goes to appreciate!), but so far I like it. First impressions: I was surprised by how gentle it was, and also it reminds me of the accidental music made by machinery. ;-P

In den gärten Pharaos will be next - or rather, the rest of it: after grabbing various other things I had one credit left (enough for one track) and went for Vuh. That impressed me right away. I get the idea that this kind of music is about control and balance - you can't just stand there making a bunch of random noise and hope for the best (...although some people forge entire careers out of that! >_<). Nor can you just 'break up the tedium' by doing something discordant every now and again. It has to build up, flow, the layers all have to interact somehow. That's some feat! ;-)
Mar. 23rd, 2009 03:45 pm (UTC)
I'd actually kinda like to hear a combination of Tuvan throat-singing and gamelan...
Mar. 24th, 2009 02:36 pm (UTC)
Ah, but on top of the didgeridoo, the whale song and the yodelling, it might be a bit de trop, n'est-ce pas?! XP
Mar. 24th, 2009 04:12 pm (UTC)
Didn't Popol Vuh do the music for one or more Werner Herzog films?
Mar. 24th, 2009 05:08 pm (UTC)
Yes, they provided music for quite a number of Herzog's films. Confusingly, though, the apparent 'soundtrack albums' don't necessarily contain the exact same music as used in the films!
Apr. 5th, 2009 02:03 am (UTC)
A lot of soundtrack albums differ from the film soundtracks. Typically a soundtrack album is a collection of material written for the film, but what actually ends up in the film is often different. My favorites, at least among things I can think of at the moment, are those for A Clockwork Orange and Paprika.
( 6 confidences — Confide in me... )

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