Germany’s Popol Vuh were the sonic partner to many of Werner Herzog’s most majestic films, including “Aguirre, the Wrath of God” (1972) and “Cobra Verde” (1987). The brilliant Austrian label Editions Mego, known best for the digital experimentalism of their artists, released a beautiful wax slab of two re-worked Popol Vuh tracks from these film soundtracks. The result is music as successful at conjuring rich imagery as the originals, but twisted to suit a more modern context.
Russell Haswell and Hecker re-work the largely choral “Aguirre I,” which accompanied the unforgettable opening of the film, where Spanish conquistadores descend from the Andes into the Amazon basin in search of El Dorado. Haswell and Hecker create a unique juxtaposition between intense beauty and impending doom. Finally, a harsh, digital warble rips through the fog and begins to grapple with the gentle chorus for center stage in the piece’s second half.
Mika Vainio, of Pan Sonic, re-works “Nachts: Schnee.” Imagine sitting in a lush tropical forest at the mouth of a cave. Vainio places this melody within a dream that moves from calm to jarring just often enough to never allow the mind, or ear, to relax.