Popol Vuh - Hosianna Mantra


A1 - Ah!
A2 - Kyrie
A3 - Hosianna-Mantra

Das V. Buch Mose

B1 - Abschied
B2 - Segnung
B3 - Andacht
B4 - Nicht Hoch Im Himmel
B5 - Andacht

In 1972 Florian Fricke converted to both Christianity and Hinduism, and decided to move even further away from electronic instruments, preferring the most humble acoustic instruments over high-tech devices. A new line-up, centered around the angelic wails of Korean soprano Djong Yun, recorded Hosianna Mantra (Pilz, january 1973) in a Buddhist meditative tone, showing a solemn and elegant way to bridge the Western mass and Eastern meditation. Fricke on keyboards, Amon Düül II's guitarist Conny Veit, Between's Robert Eliscu on oboe, Fritz Sonnleitner on violino, Klaus Wiese on tambouras build up ascetic atmospheres that catapult the listener into Tibetan or Gregorian monasteries. Most of the interplay is between the piano (tenderly caressed by Fricke) and the guitar (whose phrasing simulates the Indian mantras). The other instruments add evocative power to the music, rarely altering the flow, in a manner similar to renaissance music. The key difference between this music and classical or rock music is the repudiation of rhythm: Tangerine Dream was removing rhythm (i.e., Time) from its cosmic soundpainting, and Popol Vuh removed rhythm (i.e., Time) from its spiritual soundpainting.
 - Piero Scaruffi

Is this the same group? I can only imagine what hungry young Germans heads must have been thinking when back in 1972, eager for more wild outer space music, they opened up the plastic, slipped the LP out of its sleeves and put Hosianna Mantra on the turntable.

Gone were Holger Trülzsch and Frank Fiedler, gone was the Moog synthesizer, and in were Conny Veit (electric and 12-string guitar), Robert Eliscu (oboe), Klaus Wiese (tamboura), Fritz Sonnleitner (violin) and Djong Yun (vocals). One might expect some changes with a whole new line-up (besides the ever-present Fricke, now on piano), even significant ones, but this was nothing short of revolutionary.

Hosianna Mantra has virtually NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the two albums that preceded it. Part of that was due to Djong Yun. Fricke said, "I always had this great desire to find an instrument that could express a human voice, of vocals or the singing of a girl for instance, by electronic means. When you listen to In Den Gärten Pharoas on the A-side you will find this voice. And all of a sudden this voice that I felt was in myself really came into my life when Djong Yun appeared. Fricke also said, "I'm a conservative artist, not interested in just pressing buttons, so I went back to piano. Sometimes the power would vary so you couldn't always get the same sound on the synthesizer. It's too dependent on the machinery. It's nothing human. The piano is more direct. That's when I realized that I'd probably be happier if I lived my life with music that had acoustic instruments.

He also said, "
Hosianna Mantra is actually a combination of two different cultures, two different languages, two different lives. It has a dual meaning; ‘Hosianna,' which is a religious Christian word and ‘Mantra,' from Hinduism. Behind all of that I was convinced that basically all religions are the same. You always find it in your own heart. Fricke referred to Hosianna Mantra as "a mass, a church mass, but not for church - a conscious reflection upon religions origin is included in this music, but not in particular to any religious groups. I don't want to use synthesizers as part of Christian religious music, but you can't refer to it as church music unless you consider your own body as a church and your ears as its door.

So how does it sound, you ask? Nothing short of majestic - a revelation, an epiphany, a high point in the history of music. From the first moments of the first track (the appropriately named "
Ah!"), we know that this is something special. Suddenly Florian Fricke puts to use all those years of musical training on the piano to create something wonderful. The instrumentation outside of the piano keeps the song flowing along, but the piano drives this song with chords and runs up and down the length of the piano that must have sounded radical even to avant-garde jazz fans, and yet the whole thing is beautiful and peaceful.

Once we get to the second track, "
Kyrie," electric guitar takes over as the dominant instrument, and never before have I heard such beautiful, fluid, melodic sounds emanate from an electric guitar. Conny Veit came over to Fricke's house every day for almost half a year to prepare for this album. Entering next are the soaring soprano vocals of the Korean Djong Yun, and we're transported to a musical landscape heretofore unseen. The lyrics are based on a text by Martin Buber, a Jewish philosopher, but unless you're fluent in Latin you won't understand what's being said anyway. With singing this beautiful, Yun could be singing the proverbial phone book and it wouldn't matter. She truly becomes another instrument.

The song dips, swoons, soars and takes off, and we haven't even gotten to the ten-minute "
Hosianna Mantra," truly one of the most beautiful and unique pieces of music ever to grace the earth. Where Fricke was channeling this stuff from is a mystery, but we're well out of the realm of krautrock and electronic music here and into something that can perhaps only loosely be described as rock. I will say no more about the song "Hosianna Mantra" other then around the 5:15 mark, soon after the oboe enters the mix, Djong Yun does something vocally that is one of the most spinetingling moments I've ever heard in music. Side one is truly musical perfection on another plane.

Though side one contains three separate tracks, the side itself is called "
Hosianna Mantra." Side two is called "Das V. Buch Mose" ("The Fifth Book of Moses") and is more pastoral, more classical, and it's here where perhaps the roots of what prompted people to later refer to Popol Vuh as new age music sprouted from. It still carries the same instrumentation as side one; the same beautiful vocals, the same fluid guitar, the same pulsating tamboura, oboe and violin, but it's more muted and gentle. I don't find myself listening to side two nearly as much as side one, but it would be hard to deny its beauty.
 - Gary Bearman

Popol Vuh - Hosianna Mantra

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