Popol Vuh – Aguirre (Wah Wah, September 2015)

What better way to welcome the autumn than with a masterpiece of synth-goth, crafted when the concept wasn’t even necessarily a contemplated genre? Catalan record shop turned label Wah Wah, specialists in rediscovering long-sighted prog, treated us in September to a number of Popol Vuh reissues, and if you haven’t dipped your toes into the frosty waters of this particular brand of Kraut, then Aguirre is the one to visit first.

Containing recordings made for Werner Herzog’s chillingly hallucinatory 1972 filmAguirre: the Wrath of God and other sessions recorded by the band in the early ‘70s, the record curiously and rather brilliantly manages to perform a dual role. It epitomises German prog, but remains an inspired and pioneering oddity in its own right. While faux-medieval melodies, lunar gothic landscapes, and complicated, masculine guitar virtuosisms are de rigeur here, there is also much fun to be had with delicate, understated drum patterns, the strangeness of sampled gregorian chant coming on and off like the flick of a switch, and the mastery of juxtaposition like rainforest sounds with icy synths.

Consistently unnerving and gorgeous like the sequence of the film where a boat is stuck in the upper branches of a tree, the record feels like it presages half the canon of gothic ambient and neo-classical / ethereal of the 1980s and ‘90s. You can feel elements that may have inspired the Vangelis score for Bladerunner throughout Aguirre. Worth listening to again and again, guaranteed to make autumn mythologically worth it.

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