back

REVIEWS

AGUIRRE (SPV, 2004)

The middle of the tropical jungle. Oppressive heat and humid air are starting to bite those who dared to go through the gates of that earthly paradise, where wild exotic birds' cries and screeches echo through the impenetrable tropical forest and a human voice is cut short. Horrible things happen to those who are overwhelmed by insatiable desire to conquer this hostile dark green land with old trees growing wild, perilous rivers winding wide across the valleys and steep hills crowned with sharp pointed rocks. The forbidding hills exposed daily to the killing blaze of a dying sun are now shrouded in thick morning mist. Hearing breathtaking sounds of a mellotron march we descend to the bottom of the wooded hill inhaling damp air and rubbing our wet foreheads dry with our tired hands. Sharp mellotron sounds like Indian poisoned arrows easily pierce through the thick air and get straight into our hearts killing us with their striking beauty...

Popol Vuh - Aguirre - a soundtrack from the motion picture Aguirre by Werner Herzog. Thus it starts. A dream-like mellotron tune set in a mellow tone starts off slowly and accompanies us for the next seven minutes and makes us daydream incessantly about eerie landscapes with craggy hills topped by rough rocks and a primeval forest growing wild as far as the eye can see. The opening song ends mildly with a native Pan flute solo, whose stunning beauty seems to have come straight out of the wild Peruvian wood. This soulful, haunting melody on mellotron returns in "Aguirre II" as a fine and brief intro to another hush-now-baby-hush solo on acoustic guitar inextricably interwoven with heavy drumming. This classic musical exchange is, however, to the author's mind, a conceptual failure, as it simply does not work here. Although Daniel Fichelscher plays the acoustic guitar very well and the decent melodies he produces have a purely Bavarian flavour, which is quite a unique feature to be endowed with, he cannot keep up with the extremely lovely electronic passages on mellotron. His other playing on the album comes off pretty well, though. The following song, called "Agnus Dei", brings another interesting solo for classical guitar with some undertones of Anglo-Saxon melancholy which are also found in much younger traditional Irish folk-pop songs of "Robin Hood's band", Clannad.

Fortunately, the instrumental "Agnus Dei", puts an end to the acoustic part of the soundtrack and at the same time gives way to Fricke's final moving rendition of Herzog's Aguirre called "Vergegenwärtigung". It uses the Moog III synthesizer to create some gorgeous steady bass drones that sound like a low cosmic murmur of the solar wind from

some scary sci-fi stories. "Vergegenwärtigung" seems tiny little beside that great big "Aguirre I" but it is still one of the most fantastic creations that has ever been produced by Fricke's fertile imagination.

Sadly, this is the last time that we hear the fruit of his early devotion to the electronic gadget. These two synthesizer recordings had been ready to use long before they actually came out on Aguirre. As we know, Aguirre (the soundtrack) was released four years after Aguirre (the motion picture) had appeared on the big screen. When Florian Fricke was asked in interview by Gerhard Augustin, about such a long interval between the recording of Aguirre and its release, he said that it had not been his decision, but the music industry had created these unfortunate circumstances*. His ambivalent attitude towards such supposed indifference of the music business was directly proportional to Klaus Kinski's rude condescension to innocent Indians in the film. None of them, having been unswervingly faithful to their own lofty beliefs, seemed to have given a thought about mundane matters such as making money and metaphorically rolling in it.

This recently digitally remastered Aguirre is even better than the first poor Spalax version of the soundtrack, due largely to the part exclusion of the three acoustic songs wrongly called "Vergegenwärtigung". So, through the remastering process the original "Vergegenwärtigung" has been restored to its former glory and thereby it has gained a fuller electronic flavour. In addition, Florian Fricke's personal Eric-Satie-musique-d'ameublement triptych, "Spirit Of Peace", has been dropped from Aguirre and has been replaced by "Aguirre III" - another slightly changed musical description of the opening scene from Herzog's movie, enhanced by fantastic drumming. Despite all the writers' effort to criticize it, Popol Vuh's Aguirre has a well preserved and visualized timeless beauty of Peruvian wilderness, hot sunshine, incredible humidity, rushing rivers and Kinski's priceless fits of rage. And although the powerful vision of El Dorado is only Aguirre's fleeting glimpse of it, almost each track on Aguirre seems to be dripping with that imaginary gold of the legendary city. Therefore, dear reader, do not hesitate to invest your hard earned cash, get the soundtrack and, by pressing play on your CD player, let Fricke's show begin.

*) - From interview by Gerhard Augustin. Feb 1996.

Tomasz Ostafinski, 2009

        back