The Spellbinding Sounds of Popol Vuh’s ‘Vol. 2: Acoustic & Ambient Spheres’ Vinyl Box Set

The ritual of vinyl is one that has allowed the medium to endure far past its expected format shelf life. Between the liner notes, album artwork, incomparable sound, and the inherently tactile and physical involvement required of it, vinyl naturally fosters a deep listening experience no digital platform can replicate. While this unique assemblage of traits can benefit and heighten the experience of any musical moment pressed into wax regardless of genre, there are certain releases that truly feel blessed by the audiophile gods. One such recent release is the new Popol Vuh box set, Vol. 2: Acoustic & Ambient Spheres.

Released by BMG, this latest Popol Vuh deep dive acts as a follow-up to the wonderful 5xLP Essential Album Collection released back in 2019. Although indeed chocked full of classic Popol Vuh fare like Hosianna Mantra (1972), Aguirre (1976), and the score for Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu, there was still much of the famed German musical outfit’s catalog left out of this initial collection. Aiming to expand upon this previously laid groundwork, Vol. 2: Acoustic & Ambient Spheres focuses on the more prog and ambient works released by Popol Vuh during the 1970s and 1980s. More than a simple assortment of albums, the 4xLP set is an expertly curated release that provides a spellbinding and encompassing listening experience.

Long fascinated with world religions, traditions, and the rapidly developing German experimental film and music scene, it came as no surprise when Florian Fricke set out to establish a musical group of his own. A classically trained musician, Fricke quickly became obsessed by the seemingly endless possibilities contained within the groundbreaking synthesizer technology being released by Moog during the 1960s. After becoming introduced to the iconic Moog IIIc unit, Fricke pulled the trigger and convinced Frank Fiedler (technical assistant), Holger Trulzsch (percussion), and Bettina Fricke (production and tablas) to rally to his cause. Fusing global and spiritual inspirations with both progressive and traditional musical technology, the newly formed Popol Vuh soon developed a distinctively energized sound all their own.

For this latest Popol Vuh excursion, BMG focused on and included four releases: Seligpreisung (1973), Coeur de Verre (1977), Agape-Agape (1983), and Cobra Verde (1987). Continuing the blend of studio albums and scores for Herzog films, the joining of the two makes perfectly synchronous sense. A rare and fruitful union of creative energy, Fricke and Herzog acted as two opposing viewpoints coming together to create a unified vision. With Herzog tending to explore the darkness inherent in human nature, Fricke took strides to focus on the enlightened, more spiritual side of humanity. Not only did this collaboration of dueling energies result in pure cinematic magic, but it also produced some of Popol Vuh’s most evocative and atmospheric music. By including film music works alongside more traditional releases, the Vol. 2 set provides a reflective snapshot of Popol Vuh’s approach towards extensive, world-building material.

popol vuh vol 2 ambient acoustic vinyl review
Photo courtesy of BMG.

Regardless of whether one listens to the albums in chronological order or not, the albums included in this Vol. 2 box set complement one another in a remarkably effective way. Where Seligpreisung highlights Fricke’s vocals comfortably nestled in amongst the organic rock guitar stylings of Daniel Fichelscher, Coeur de Verre simultaneously proves that vocals were never a requirement for Popol Vuh’s ambient soundscapes to land effectively. Similarly, as the layered chants and dark swirls of synthesizer sound reverberate with a nearly indefinable power on Cobra Verde, the emotional resonance seamlessly connects with the transcendently heartfelt emotional landscape presented with Agape-Agape. Despite each album being easily able to stand solid and resolute in its individual power to embody the Popol Vuh sound, there’s a particular strength that rises to the surface when presented together.

In the press release provided by BMG, Alex Patterson of The Orb calls the music of Popol Vuh “…a magical journey into the soul of heaven. Music for real music lovers. History never repeats sound like this.” Although this description may sound hyperbolic at first glance, this particular release proves that Patterson’s sentiments are not far off. If one has the time and patience to engage in a thorough active listening session, there is something close to magic that sparks in the air when the needle first grips the groove. Hanging in the air like wisps of potent incense smoke and crystal aura, the passion and intense energy that Fricke and his collaborators injected into each carefully placed note can be tangibly, spiritually felt. Tapping into power on an almost biological level, Popol Vuh’s carefully crafted blend of harmonies, sound waves, frequencies, and tones leave the realm of mere mortal music far below.

Presented with a refreshing amount of care, each record has been remastered and is pressed on 180g vinyl with extensive liner notes, bonus tracks, picture prints, and collector film stills. As such, Vol. 2: Acoustic & Ambient Spheres becomes more than a simple collection of Popol Vuh’s works; it becomes an incomparable Popol Vuh listening experience. Achingly beautiful from top to bottom, from the packaging to the quality of listen, the mesmerizing and elusive power of Popol Vuh shines through this release with ease. This fact becomes even more impressive due to the rather indefinable power and style of Popol Vuh. Unsurprisingly, it is Florian Fricke himself who provided perhaps the best descriptor of Popol Vuh’s sound saying, “Call it magic music or love music, just what you’d like to: It’s music for the soul. That’s it.”

Released in November 2021, Popol Vuh’s Vol. 2: Acoustic & Ambient Spheres Deluxe Vinyl Box set is now available. Each album is also available on CD. Available now online or through your local independent record store.

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