Every few months I am informed of a new electronic music genre: brostep, chillwave, Moombahton, Moombahcore, post-dubstep, witchhouse, trance—and the list goes on. Although the distinctions among certain sub-subgenres are pretty molecular, electronic music is undeniably a genre as broad and diverse as rock music.
When German prog/Krautrock band Popol Vuh formed in 1969, electronic music was not a “thing.” Before Popol Vuh, no German rock band had used a Moog synthesizer, and in doing so the group became a pioneer of electronica. The band created otherworldly, spiritual chant-rock (ahem) as well as the soundtracks for several Werner Herzog films, including Aguirre and Nosferatu. Popol Vuh’s founder, Florian Fricke, died 10 years ago this December, and so to honor his legacy, SPV felt the time was ripe to reintroduce his music in a new light, to give it a face lift and present it to the young people who owe their trendiest music in part to a man who busted out a Moog way before it was cool. The product, Popol Vuh: Revisited And Remixed (1970-1999), is a double album co-produced by German DJ Roland Appel that contains a best-of collection and 11 remixes of original songs by electronic artists like Moritz Von Oswald, Stereolab and Mouse On Mars. I can’t very well offer insight into Popol Vuh: Revisited And Remixed as a reinterpretation of a band I am familiar with, but I can talk about it as a member of the remixes’ target audience: young people who hadn’t heard of Popol Vuh before it was revisited and remixed.
The remixes cover a semi-diverse range of electronic subgenres—maybe not Moombahton or brostep, but bona fide house, dub and ambient electronic music have a big presence in the album. Von Oswald’s remix of “In Den Gärten Pharaohs” takes a clubby approach to Popol Vuh’s spacey, trance-like aesthetic with a deep, steady beat under blips of ambient spiritual synth, and Thomas Fehlmann adds a more complex beat and a few melodies to make “Aguirre I/II” danceable while intensely ethereal. The remix of “Through Pain To Heaven” by Mouse On Mars introduces techno filth mayhem to Popol Vuh’s traditionally atmospheric psychedelia, while Stereolab’s remix of “Hosianna Mantra” works with the original’s mélange of choral chants, hippie rock guitar, piano and synthesizer.
Although the 11 artists featured on Popol Vuh: Revisited And Remixed took diverse approaches to the original tracks, with the exception of Mouse On Mars, the remixes aren’t radically different from one another. They are all Popol Vuh songs first and club or trance jams second, which means they are all pretty far-out and hypnotic and long. No remix is under five minutes, giving the artists ample time to let the songs progress linearly, layer upon layer. Like Popol Vuh, they are hippie-rock-ish electronica songs that sound at times like a spiritual ceremony and at others like Led Zeppelin on ayahuasca, only now with moar bass.