Popol Vuh – Affenstunde

affenstunde front
It begins with the sound of a sunny day for a few moments and then after a big splash and a few drips we go down the electronic rabbit hole into a listening wonderland. For their debut album, Popol Vuh are very much an electronic band, closer to the stranger parts of their score for “Aguirre” than to the beautiful, almost classical music they would soon embrace. Here they are conjuring strange dreamscapes out of their analogue technology.

Side one begins with curious, aquatic dreamscapes and sudden electronic chimes that seem to approach and disappear like passing vehicles. This strange and mysterious series of sound waves suddenly morph into a dense ethnic percussion jam, not loud or heavy but an intricate arrangement of many unusual sounds. From then on, it becomes particularly ghostly, almost intersecting with the mellower parts of the Radiophonic Workshop’s early output but with a sense of peace replacing their science fiction alienation.label
The album is one that is experienced very differently between the vinyl version and the CD version. For the listener to the vinyl, it feels like one long extended piece on each side but when you go digital, what was once side one is split into tracks but how it gets split does vary between different CD versions! One version lists it all as being called “Ich Mache Einen Spiegel” and split it into three tracks, “Dream Part 4”, “Dream Part 5” and “Dream Part 49” but other versions make “Ich Mache Speigel” the first track followed by the various Dream parts. Still, the remastering seems nice although I am a bit puzzled why one release decided to stick side A of “In den Gärten Pharaos“ as a bonus track, although it does flow well I will concede.

While the moog-focused palette of sounds is very different to what we would associate with Popol Vuh, Florian’s distinctive creative voice does shine out. It is a thoughtful, meditative album and he somehow imbues the electronics with his interests in Eastern spirituality. It has a concentrated serenity quite unlike any other early electronic music apart from perhaps Pauline Oliveros. Like Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream and The Scorpions, this is a debut album that doesn’t quite fit in with the bands general image and provides unexpected delights (or shocks if you are a purist!)
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