1. Ah! (4:40)
2. Kyrie (5:23)
3. Hosianna Mantra (10:09)
1. Abschied (3:10)
2. Segnung (6:07)
3. Andacht I (0:47)
4. Nicht Hoch Im Himmel (6:18)
5. Andacht II (0:46)
Robert Eliscu: Oboe.
Florian Fricke: Cembalo (Harpsichord) and piano.
Conny Veit: 12-string and electric guitar.
Klaus Wiese: Tamboura.
Djong Yun: Vocals.
Guest: Fritz Sonnleitner on violin.
Produced by Popol Vuh
Artwork by Ingo Trauer and Richard J.Rudow
Photography by Bettina Fricke
And so, another chapter of the great Popol Vuh tome is gilded, as the reverential groups MK II phase begins. Florian Fricke, founder and zeitgeist, remained the core as both Holger Trülzsch and Frank Fiedler left before recordings and sessions commenced for what would be the third volume of their characteristic talking to God and the gods themed paeans, Hosianna Mantra. Whether the change was down to dynamics or the vibes, Fricke now filled the chasm with not just replacements but also guest interventionists, and moved towards a more natural and pure sound. This meant that Fricke’s Moog would be consigned to history, though it had one last outing on Tangerine Dream‘s serialism vapourous ‘Birth Of Liquid Plejades’ – from the 1972 Zeit album.
As was customary at chez Fricke, musicans often dropped in for a jam, both on a whim and unannouced. Among them were many of the Munich set, and out of town mavericks and composers. Fricke had little difficulty in finding new recruits to bounce ideas off; indeed, he expanded the group to a quintet. One of these new members was the Stuttgart virtuoso guitarist Conny Veit, whose own evanescent cosmic rock band Gila had disbanded for a breather before later reforming and recording their most notable album, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee. Veit’s arching reliefs and plaintive sighing riffs add a seraph spun layer of spiritual aching to Fricke’s liturgy. Joining the pianist and, now, cembalo-harpsichord coalesce bandleader and efflux floating Veit, were classicist Baroque oboe player Robert Eliscu; master of the Tibetan singing bowl and ambient composer Klaus Wiese, whose dolce plucking of the lyte and sitar like tamboura sends the listener off on a meditative drift; and Korean ethereal vocalist Djong Yun. Making a complementary addition to the group, was the equally classical maestro, and violin genuis Fritz Sonnleitner – a link to Germany’s enduring musical heritage, coaxed into interpreting Germany’s future.
During the upheavels of 72, Fricke began a consanguine, fruitful collaboration with anthroposophy-fantasist film director, Werner Herzog. The hallucinatory conquistador study, Aguirre: Wrath of God, was intensified by Popol Vuh’s holy communion soundtrack: both an unsettling rhapsody of harrowing tragdy, and sanctified beauty, the cinemascope backing tones eminate from Fricke’s monastic church organ. Strangely, we would have to wait until 1975 before the film’s eponymous soundtrack was released; but even then it only actually featured two tracks from the actual movie.
Influenced, in part, by the fabled writings of the Austrian born Jewish philosopher Martin Buber – especially his Philosphy of Dialogue, and I and Thou (exisitance as encounters) tracts – Fricke poised a sacrosanct prayer based around the belief that all religions are inherently the same. Mixing and matching a polygenesis tapestry of spiritual signposts and reverberations from a host of worldwide beliefs; Hosianna Mantra took the David Axlerod produced Electric Prunes exultations of Mass in F Minor and Release of an Oath to another level.
Fricke and his apostles embarked on a naturally beguilled nirvana; led by a metronomic piano and hazy waves of evocative sounds. Djong Yun, the daughter of Korean composer and Berlin Music School profesor Isang Yung, uttered the hallowed texts that formed the languorous backbone of this scriptural album: swooning like some atavistic soul, unlocked from the Coptic scrolls. Though still wanderous and flowing, the expanded seven-composition suite is lightly regulated into shorter and digestable bouts of narrative; which tend to follow a central melodic theme: most of these serene and beatific pasages rework the opening ‘Ah!’ and ‘Kyrie’ sound palette.
Palatial in depth the yearning ‘Ah!’ surreptitously eases the listener in, with a pondering piano and incipient spiralling plucked tamboura, before mystically waltzing into an exchange of opposing scale runs between the harpsichord – which sounds like the perfect pitch and tone to evoke that final scene, of a creepy clean-cut Baroque bedecked room (or prison), from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey – and metaphysical lead guitar. ‘Kyrie’, like the Prunes before them, flirts with the Greek transliteration for our Lord. Used in exultation and in displays of praise, Popol Vuh manifest their own hymn, and gentle swaying blessings to this devotional phrase; wraping it in bending guitar bird-calls and melodramatic cooing vocals. Self-titled centre-piece ‘Hosianna Mantra’ is accorded ten minutes to listlessly drift over, and to probe Tibetan prayer and western Christianity psalms. Floating on a quasi-Ash Ra Tempel cloud of trippy, busyily, noodling guitar, transcendental soaring oboe, and far-out hippy atmospherics, this evanescent oeuvre attempts to bridge the great divide.
Side 2 proceeds with the tender, calm eulogy, ‘Abschied’: translated from the German as farewell, or used as a parting gesture; Abschied should perhaps of been the closing track. Leaving Julian Cope “lost for context” as to explaining its moving dreamy fluidity, this fleeting oboe laced offering resonates with aspiring repeats of lush textural holy notation, and enchanting, soothing choral vocals. The German term for benediction and blessings, ‘Segnung’ gives its reverent tidings to a wistful sonnet, resplendent with slow, tethered guitar, tamboura and violin.
‘Nicht Hoch Im Himmel’ is a more sullen affair with heavy Gothic leanings: Yun adopts a more obvious teutonic accent on her suffused, airy vocals. Fricke plays a dutiful romatic accompaniment whilst bobbing up and down on the wavering, lingering mood. Spooked, picked-out notes from Viet hang in the air as a ghostly ether closes all around this seance-like illusion. Perched either side of this peregrination enlightened trope, is the two ‘Andacht’ vignettes. Both follow on from the earlier ‘Segnung’, as extended wistful threads, or segue-ways between the two main mantras. ‘Andacht II’ closes the drapes on the service; ending with another of those, non-threatening, but illuminating low hums and sacred moans, before dispersing into the heavens.
Hosianna Mantra marked the end of Popol Vuh’s laconic partnership with the Pilz label; which had shone for the shortest of time. Fricke and his flock would now continue to experiment with the sound they’d formulated on this magical truimph; using it as the bedrock for all their future film score work. As holy as music can get, this magnum opus is up there in the empyreal charts.