Dick’s Pick’s: The pinnacle of Popol Vuh’s career, Letzte Tage – Letzte Nächte

Following the past two weeks adventures into death metal, Dick has now returned to a more familiar stomping ground of Krautrock, indulging in the eighth album from Munich avant-garde maestros, Popol Vuh.

What’s their story, then?

Popol Vuh were the brainchild of Florian Fricke, a German musician who was synonymous for his exploratory sounds with a Moog synthesiser. While early Popol Vuh work was very electronic based and in keeping with what could be considered the ‘traditional’ krautrock sound, Fricke would eventually abandon this more with each record. By the time Letzte Tage – Letzte Nächte was released in 1976, the band would be gearing into a more ‘rock’ sound, with Fricke relying on the use of an acoustic piano.

So is it just another prog rock record?

Far from it. The first notable difference is the length. At just thirty minutes long, it may seem incredible how Popol Vuh could fit so much intensity into half an hour, and it cruises by in no time. It is far from a rushed effort, though, with Fricke overseeing every subtle nuance to make what is a generally a very different sounding album feel instantly recognisable as a Popol Vuh recording. The acoustic piano is used sparingly and buried within the mix of heavy drums and eastern-tinged guitar scales that weave throughout the record.

For the half an hour you are in the company of Letzte Tage – Letzte Nächte, it takes you on an ethereal, mystical journey that is filled with promise, hope and enlightenment. Popol Vuh would go on to collaborate on a number of soundtracks with German screenwriter, Werner Herzog, but this remains the pinnacle of their often overlooked career.

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