Out of all the “Krautrock” bands to come out of Germany in the early 70’s, Faust were the most relentlessly experimental, and may have been the first industrial group on the planet. They picked up where Zappa and the Velvet Underground left off – interested in “sound collage” moreso than actual songs, and willing to experiment wildly in the studio in order to produce the coolest and most ear-destroying noises they could. This was a group that was always trying to push some sort of boundary and do things their way, but at the same time was self-aware and always willing to infuse neat bits of irony and humor into their work. Their music was very unprofessional, but in an intriguing way – it was absolutely spontaneous and often comes across unrehearsed.
All this would be for naught if it went for the band’s terrific melodic sense and ability to keep things grounded – even their most experimental albums have a lot of pure “musical” sections, which I believe seriously challenges popular notions that “Faust are a very difficult band to get into” – if you can dig Can, you can dig this. There are more harsh feedback or white noise-based passages on their albums than you’d probably like, but at the same time they had an awful lot of very pleasant and melodic work too, usually in the form of piano pieces or acoustic guitar-led ballads, and they could really rock when given the chance.
The band was actually “assembled” by Uwe Nettlebeck, who had somehow managed to convince Polydor that they had the new Beatles on their hands, something that would capitalize on the psychedelic and experimental movements that were dominating the airwaves in the late 60's. They got much more than they bargained for, however...the band walled themselves off for months and came out with something that was completely unlike anything else at the time, with Nettlebeck producing and indulging the band’s most whimsical impluses. Predictably, the album sank like a stone despite glowing reviews from musical “sages” such as John Peel and Julian Cope. The band was dropped after one more album, after which Virgin gave them a try, but they too dropped the group after only two albums. It would be years before any record company would touch them again and the group was forced to split.
It is really these four 70’s albums (and perhaps some of the auxiliary material, such as 71 Minutes) that is responsible for their legend, and rightfully so – these albums weren’t just innovative and unique, but they were well-written too…they hold up to repeated listening and never got bogged down with “weirdness for weirdness sake” the way guys like Zappa sometimes did. Those taken aback by how avant-garde some of this is should re-listen and find that there’s a lot more musical stuff than what appears at first glance – this is not just an academic exercise. And when they experimented, they made it count – many of these sounds were made by plugging things where they shouldn’t go, or were simply “found”, never to be replicated again. I’d say those four albums can be divided into “avant-garde” and “song-based” categories, but they don't have a definitive album – you could make an argument for any of them to be their best, and none of them will come easy. In the canon of Krautrock, they’re all essential.
Sometime in the early 90’s, there was a reunion, with original members Peron, Diermaier, and Irmler playing a few shows around Europe. Soon after they started releasing albums again, adding a few newer (and younger) members in the process. This material is pretty hit-or-miss, as the group seems to have transitioned into an instrumental industrial band. Some of it is pretty powerful, but it doesn’t have the “anything-goes” attitude that made the early recordings so intriguing. They certainly do not sound like a dinosaur band, but unfortunately Rudolf Sosna, who was the group’s primary ‘songwriter’, had drank himself to death, ensuring the group could never be the same. Since then, Peron was actually kicked out, then let back in, and Irmler quit, or something like that. I’m still trying to sort it out, but I know from Ravvivando on those original three members did not appear at the same time on a Faust recording. There are actually now two seperate bands releasing material under the Faust name, one with Irmler and one with Peron, with Diermaier bouncing between the two, and both with kind of a rotating cast of younger members, although I'm not too sure of the details. The discography gets pretty confusing, with a lot of limited releases of live stuff, remix albums, collaborations, and repackaging of old material. I'm slowly sorting through it, but I think that I have most of it accounted for below.
This is one fuzzed out mess, butchering time signatures and taking pride in dissonant melodies, but it also turns out to be one of Germany's most intriguing albums. It’s full of found sound, washes of white noise, snippets of conversation, astral synth noises and tape manipulation, plus some actual music - this is similar to Zappa’s collage-based Lumpy Gravy, but more cohesive and enjoyable. Funnier, too – “Why Don’t You Eat Carrots?” is a collage of hellish, piercing electronic noises, but at its core there’s a playful, off-key marching melody that sounds like it came from a demented cartoon. The whole thing plays like a massive headtrip – even the theoretically pleasant piano and guitar parts are echoed and unsettling, and it never meanders long – during “Meadow Meal”, the band does an intense chant that’s haunting but sparse, and just as it starts to drag, the band unexpectedly rips into a furious jam section with a blazing guitar solo. There’s more – “Miss Fortune” begins with a great psychedelic groove, led by some kind of shimmering and buzzing instrument – is this some kind of synthesizer, or a guitar fed through a modified distortion pedal, or what? There are a lot of moments like that on the album - it's not quite clear how they got their sounds, but there's so much density and adventure here that it's worth it to try to figure it out. The vibe here veers toward "party in hell", which is not such a bad thing. Once you get past the sheer abrasiveness of it all, this album reveals itself as being particularly engaging, all the way up to the chilling poem at the end, read with the words alternating speakers – “nobody knows if it really happened”. This is an avant-garde classic.
Also, the packaging was great – the cover was a smudged X-Ray of a fist printed on clear plastic, with the album itself pressed on clear vinyl. Very cool.
So Far (1972)
Needless to say, the debut bricked and Polydor asked the band to turn in something a little more structured and easier to sell. Well, it is more commercial in that it's an album with actual songs, but there's hardly anything here that could come within 100 miles of radio play - the only thing that could be considered a pop song is a friendly but concentrated groove track ("It's a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl"), focusing on just the toms, with the acoustic guitar and vocals pressed to the back. From there, each track takes on a different style, as Faust would prove to be a band of many talents. The big highlight, "No Harm" starts as a melodic piece with a church organ and horns, which abruptly changes into an amazing blues-jam with a driving rhythm and thrilling vocal work (pretty much all yelling). It totally rules; it runs on nothing but pure rock n' roll energy, and the "Yeeeah!!" at the end is more intense than the Who's famous one. The rest of the album isn't as awesome as that, but there's an awful lot to like here - the band plays around with "pile-up" jazz fusion (the title track, played in 7/4…try not to count the beats), terrifying, proto-Throbbing Gristle industrial ("Mamie is Blue"), and even jokey swing music ("In the Spirit") before the album is through. There's one track that's truly bizarre ("I've Got My Car and My TV"), with a melody sung by kids and one grown man (with a hilarious thick accent) which eventually bursts into a ridiculously catchy klavier-led jam session. Despite the song-like format, there's a lot here that mirrors the debut; there are a lot of quick cuts and bizarre noises, and it's hard to really predict where any particular piece is going to go; while "Sunshine" doesn't really go anywhere, "So Far" builds and builds until the main elements are nearly drowned out. The fact that the album doesn't really have a real direction benefits it in the end; the only consistant element from song to song is their ability to pervert and corrupt every form of music they attempt. This is a landmark.
Outside the Dream Syndicate (with Tony Conrad) (1972)
Haven't yet heard this one, but I did hear the 1995 live version of "From the Side of Man and Womankind" that went for over 50 minutes. Basically it is Tony Conrad droning on violin, Zappi going "thud, thud, thud" on the drum and Peron going "donk, donk, donk" with his bass. And that's it. I'm not really too interested to hear the studio version although it is half the length and apparently does include another track.
The Faust Tapes (1973)
After two albums, Polydor had enough and decided to drop the band, who were later picked up by Virgin. In order to figure out how to sell such an avant-garde and listener-unfriendly group, the label decided to release their next album for the price of a single, ensuring lots of ‘curiosity’ purchases – the album sold 50,000 copies, and I’ll bet 45,000 of them found their way to the used bins shortly after. This is another collage-type album, collecting all of the different types of experimentation Faust tried throughout their short existence (some segments from this album date back to ’71) into one 43-minute ‘piece’. Don't be too intimidated; there are some actual songs, and they're good ones - “Flashback Caruso” is a great folk song, “J’ai Mai Aux Dents” is a droning, rhythmic, and addictive guitar jam with flailing sax over the top, and “Der Vaum” is a great start-stop chant-based tune. The difference between this and the debut is that they’re kept separate from the shorter experimental bits, which seem complete in concept only. This makes for a jarring listen, as melodic and interesting bits can be suddenly cut and replaced by white noise, as the album seems to soothe and repulse in equal doses. Many of these tracks have completely different approaches and production techniques, going from upbeat and fast funk to overdistorted guitar soundscapes to creepy vocal chanting to jarring drill noise to Floyd-like psychedelic jam at the drop of a hat. So it’s relentlessly experimental and fascinating, and nearly impossible to memorize, but where’s the continuity? The album never really gets you into a mood, or tries to keep you there, and some of the experimentation seems a little silly - there’s a track subtitled “All on saxes”, draw your own conclusions. The album definitely works well when they're mixing things up and giving you neat musical bits to counteract the more atonal stuff (as they do on the first side), but the second side begins with a long list of bizarre non-songs before finally settling down in the last 8-9 minutes. Overall this is one of the most bizarre album concepts I've ever come across - they really do not seem to care which segments go where, and unlike the debut, there really is no "flow" of material. But if you're feeling adventurous, give it a shot; if nothing else it's very amusing.
Faust IV (1973)
Under more pressure from Virgin, again Faust decide to make something a little easier to grasp, and again it's brilliant. The first track, "Krautrock" may well have given the genre its name, but above that it's a fantastic piece of work, featuring a wash of metallic guitar and keyboard through its 12-minute entirety, a sound so incredibly mesmerizing that when the drums finally kick in halfway through, you'll wonder why you didn't notice they were missing. After that, the album goes into a few directions, but this time more focused, with 3 of the 8 tracks being ballads. Oh, they're all good, even great, with the amazing violin/acoustic guitar combo of "Psalter" being the most sentimental and catchy (despite being in 11/4 or something like that), but the others are essential – “Jennifer” rides on a warbling bass note and is heartbreaking, and “It’s a Bit of Pain” is a pretty acoustic tune that contains one of the most oddly placed electronic drill noises of all time (not that there were many nominees). Otherwise, you've got a great, two-part jam ("Giggy Smile") which launches into a fast-paced and exciting version of a familiar theme from So Far, along with some more humourous material and some of their usual noisemaking. But it's all great - Faust generally keep the music quotient high and the random irritating noise factor low, and many of the actual tunes are quite groundbreaking (especially given the 1973 release date). This is one of Krautrock's best albums and a great starting point for newcomers. My only real complaint is that Virgin botched the track titles for Side 2 on the sleeve; if you're following along you might get confused (I used the "correct" titles in the review).
In 2007, this album was remastered and rereleased with a bonus disc. It's worth tracking down if you don't have the 71 Minutes or BBC Sessions discs, from which most of Disc 2 is culled from. The actual album doesn't seem to sound any better, and somehow the track titles didn't get fixed.
71 Minutes of Faust (rec. 1971-1975, rel. 1979)
The product of two aborted albums, 71 Minutes was released after unsurprisingly being dropped by Virgin. It's a neat addendum to the first four Faust albums, with most of the songs sounding along the lines of Faust IV, but it's not at all polished. Fans of Neu!-like drones would probably like the two "Munic" tracks, and again we get to hear Faust take off in a bunch of different directions, but it seems as though the band has somewhat run out of steam, with some of the tracks simply showing the band trying to be as obnoxious as possible ("25 Yellow Doors", "Don't Take Roots"). There's a confusingly standard blues number ("Baby"), a long, plodding track that sounds something like a twisted, off-key Pet Sounds outtake ("Chromatic", which is one of my favorites), and a great, echo-laden and sparse piano piece that could have came from the first album ("Das Meer"). Three of the tracks are alternate versions of tracks that appeared on the last two albums, with the new, rhythm-heavy version of "J'al Mai Aux Dents" actually being somewhat of an improvement. It's nice to have some sort of a ground like that - many of the longer tracks are certainly good, but don't seem to change up much, making them somewhat of a chore – most of this seems to have been improvised. But Faust was releasing so much high-quality material at this time that it can't help but be intriguing, and this is still a good listen, particularly if you're into longer, Can-style jams.
Parts of this were released as a promo cassette called Faust V - I have an MP3 copy and it’s got pretty bad sound quality, plus there’s nothing that doesn’t appear here or on the BBC Sessions release. Since then there’s been a number of 80’s releases with titles like Munic and Elsewhere and The Last LP, which all seem to just be repackaging of this material.
BBC Sessions (rec. 1973, rel. 1996)
A fine release, featuring a BBC Session recorded in '73 and a few other assorted tracks, but it's hardly essential and there's not much new. The first track is the live session, featuring something of a medley of an unreleased track ("The Lurcher"), and two familiar ones - "Krautrock" and "Do So" ("Stretch Out Time" from the Faust Tapes). The remaining tracks are the rest of the Munic party sessions that didn't make the 71 Minutes release and alternate versions of "So Far" and "Das Meer". The live and alternate takes don't add anything really new, and the unreleased tracks are pretty lame, based mostly on experimental noise. Comes as a part of The Wumme Years boxset, but you probably shouldn't seek it out otherwise.
Faust came back together in the early 90's with Diermaier and Irmler intact, adding a bunch of new, younger members to fill the void. They released a few live shows on CD but the prospect of a studio album seemed unlikely until Jim O'Rourke stepped in and decided to put together this one. The entirety of the album seems to be live, with the concept being silence - indeed, "Long Distance Calls in the Desert" is simply a recording of the band playing nothing - luckily, there's someone in the audience willing to at least make some noise with some kind of reeded instrument. What to make of that? It's certainly nothing you'd hear on another record, but maybe that's for the best. When they are playing, the band seems content to be playing slow-moving industrial grooves with almost no real variation or melody, and the results can be quite plodding - there's only one real tune here, and that's the 15-minute "Listen to the Fish", syncopating a simple 2-note bass line and steady drum kit with whatever Faust decides to throw at it. It's mostly long and meditative, using drawn out guitar noises, and the groove doesn't really change at all, but it's preferable to stuff like "Eroberung Der Stille, Tiel 1" which sounds like the band warming up for 9 minutes. "Tiel 2" is the album's only real good moment, sounding like the Boredoms playing over classical music, but there's still nothing much here, and it isn’t worth listening to over 30 minutes of it to get there. Admittedly, the album touches on a cool concept - the band seems like they're playing in the middle of a desert, with no crowd noise but plenty of wind, and other 'found' sounds such as the whirling of a helicopter blade. If that sounds interesting to you, this is your album, and they certainly get points for trying, but it's hard to make something out of an album of nothing. In terms of avant-garde it is neat and not really hard on the ears at all, but it doesn't quite invite multiple listens the way their other material does.
You Know faUSt (1997)
Well, this is better. It's nothing too much out of left field, but at least this time we've some decent music and a few curveballs. It's comprised of 17 tracks, only five being over four minutes, with the rest being linking tracks, little experiments, and other weird stuff - you know, kind of like someone took a toolbox and tried to make music out of it. The longer tracks are mostly good, of course - "Hurricane" isn't much more than a flurry of drums and electronic sound, but it's some sort of a groove, and the album (luckily) touches on the band's softer side. "C-Pluus-Pause" is driven by little more than a soft trumpet melody, but it's a nice track, and the spectacular "Liebeswehen 2" is led by a fuzzed-out guitar playing all major chords in an attempt to make something that's actually friendly for a change (the melody is reminiscent of Brian Eno’s “The Big Ship”, which is definitely a good thing). Oh, and there's even a nice, upbeat, acoustic guitar track ("Sixty-Sixty") that doesn't sound like anything they've done before. They still haven't lost their penchant for loud noise (the 14-minute "Na Sowas" is completely distorted and fuzzed out, but most of it is pretty fierce) or experimentation, but in comparison to every other Faust album, this is pretty tame. A nice "welcome back" album.
Faust Wakes Nosferatu (1997)
A soundtrack to the apparently-better-off silent film. I've never seen the movie, but based on Faust's interpretation of it, here's what happens. People move around very slowly. Long shots are taken of mundane things, like a person going down the stairs. Monster eventually emerges and scares a bunch of people in a boring manner. Does anything exciting happen in this movie at all? There's no real climax, just a bunch of mood music. Drums playing non-rhythms, fuzzed out guitar flailing about, bass creeping up all over the place, and lots of other random sound effects thrown in for no reason. This music is boring, and there’s over 70 minutes of it! And you thought Nosferatu was scary??
Faust finally find their groove again - this is their darkest and loudest album yet, and that's a good thing. Filled mostly with harsh drumbeats, metallic noise, and a variety of rock instruments overdriven to hell, the album tries to redefine industrial rock all by itself, and very nearly succeeds, too. Few albums conjure up the kind of hellish visions this one does - turn it up, and if you're not feeling like you're in a post-apocalyptic industrial world by the third track, then this clearly isn't the kind of music for you. Okay, there's one moment of beauty ("Du Wiest Schon", which is nearly breathtaking), and one track that rolls and grooves along like the golden days of Krautrock ("T-Electronique", arguably the best thing on here), but most of the rest smashes and crashes along in a furious manner, destroying everything in its path...speakers, eardrums, whatever. A great album to play loud - don't get me wrong, it's as obnoxious as anything the band ever put out, but there's a real rhythm and groove here, as Faust again succeeds in making an album that sounds like no other. Probably could have scored higher too, but some of the tracks are overlong ("Livin' Tokyo", "Four Plus Seven Means Eleven"), and the disregard for the listener can be trying. It's sort of rare to be in the mood for this, but when you are it tears - this is the way Faust should be in the 90's. Strangely, original member Jean-Herve Peron was kicked out of the band before this was recorded (which is why the vocals are either sampled or random screaming) - maybe shedding him was just the kick in the pants the band needed to revitalize itself.
The Land of Ukko and Rauni (2000)
A live set drawing on the above album and a bunch of new (or improvised) tracks. Unlike many of the live Faust albums I've heard, this one actually has pretty good sound quality, and for most of it you won't be able to tell that it's live. This is a double disc set (though only 84 minutes, so it's manageable) with a number of longer tracks, and for the most part all of disc 1 sounds like one long piece. It starts with "The Calling", a 10-minute collage of deep and disturbing ambient noises, that eventually give way to the first three tracks of Ravvivando; it continues in a similar vein until ending with a long, brooding version of "Du Weist Schon", which is turned into the same type of droning industrial jam that these guys do (moderately) well. Things kick up a bit on the second disc - "Four Plus Eleven" focuses on a complex drum rhythm and searing blasts of distorted organ noise, while "Double You and Me" is a slow, chaotic jam with some actual vocals (mostly yelled), that flows into "Abbau", which starts as distorted noise and evolves into a good noise jam with some interesting samples. I guess it suffers from the same problems that plague most of Faust's later work; it's too slow and reliant on junky percussion, as their musical palette narrows drastically. Also, it doesn't really sound good unless you crank it up loud, as it's too easy to tune out otherwise, as musically there is not really a whole lot going on. On the last track, the bass starts playing this snappy 4-note melody for a few seconds, and it sounds almost jarring in comparison to the rest of the album, as even "Du Weist Schon" loses its distinctive melody. This is a good companion piece to Ravvivando; it's not as good, with less structure and less noise, but it manages to hit roughly the same area. If you do play it loud it can really be overwhelming, in a good way. For a double disc live set without any actual songs on it, this is pretty enjoyable.
A bunch of remixes of the Ravvivando tracks. I have heard this and it's decent, but most of the tracks don't really seem to draw on the originals. Not really dance-floor worthy stuff but kind of interesting. Reminds me a bit of Can's Sacrilege set, but of course there is not as much source material to draw on. In fact, only really about half of the source album gets used anyway, so there's a bunch of tracks that are remixed twice, and both "Carousel" and "T-Electronique" get remixed three times. The Residents appear on this album, but besides that I haven't heard of any of the remixers.
Patchwork 1971-2002 (2002)
An attempt to redo the Faust Tapes by stringing together short snippets of various recordings made throughout the band's life. A good portion of it's taken from the band's 70's days, but all the good recordings from those times were released already, so the best tracks from there are the alternate versions of tracks like "It's a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl" or "Psalter" which get slowed down and mucked up, maybe a result of being recorded on now 30-year old tapes. There's one good modern track, and it's a refreshingly straightforward rock-n-roller ("Nervous"). It doesn't really keep the experimental spirit that The Faust Tapes had, nor its small collection of good songs - just an odds-n-ends collection that should only really be interesting to a diehard fan.
Faust/Dalek - Derbe Respect, Alder (2004)
Here's an interesting idea - Dalek, a New Jersey hip hop outfit, decided to go through some of Faust's studio scraps, remix them, and add their own vocals. It starts promising before the rap even starts - "Imagine How We Started", after its lengthy intro, transforms into a storm of drums, sounding like three or four kits falling over each other at once. It's exciting, but the album doesn't really capture that moment again - most of it is tuneless and dissonant, but unlike Ravvivando, it's not powerful, and sort of goes on without rhyme or reason. As cool as the idea is, it just doesn't develop sometimes - Dalek's vocals seem mostly out of place and tend to be obnoxious lyrically ("Bullets Need Violence"), and the tracks never seem to get going ("Dead Lies"). There is one track that's massive, however - the remix of "T-Electronique" is absolutely fantastic, a true soundtrack to the end of the world, the sound of things falling apart. Drums crash down from everywhere, there are blasts of powerful feedback, and the rap is stirring and works wonders with the tune. Hell, it can barely even be considered a remix, having almost nothing to do with the original. If the whole album sounded like that, this would really be something incredible, but alas, there's a wealth of tracks that just go nowhere and stay there – it’s interesting for a couple of listens, but I think Dalek was trying to tap into Faust’s avant-garde "no compromises" sense a little too deeply. Is it worth it for "T-Electronique" alone? Maybe, if you have more money than you know what to do with (or have a way to download it). So it's not completely a wasted opportunity, but have fun sitting through it until the end.
In Autumn (2007)
A triple live CD boxset with a DVD included, taken from the band's 2005 shows. I’ve always heard that Faust’s show was loud, powerful, and dynamic, but unfortunately this live recording transports you directly to the back row – the mix is quiet and slightly muffled, meaning that you have to turn it up to get the powerful parts, resulting in a lot of hiss. You can even hear people having conversations during the quiet parts, for Christ's sake! Plus, it’s longer than need be – isn’t the third disc just a re-hash of what was on the first two? If there’s anything to recommend this by, it’s that the performances are spirited, even if they are noticeably lacking a certain something (which I’m guessing was Irmler, as he does not appear here, but Peron is back), and instead of offering lengthy ambient improvisations, they re-hash their old stuff, performing good chunks of So Far, Faust IV, and 71 Minutes. The titles of the tracks are often misleading – a good majority of them are old tracks, even with names like “Schempal”. There are a few improvised-sounding pieces, as “Not Music” attempts to capture their collage-style early stuff in a live setting against a rant condemning the stuff (“I hear noises…but this is not music!”) Clever. Unfortunately, some of the other improvised material is pretty much inaudible (“Voices & Horns”). Gets points for a few nice performances (“Psalter” is still pretty, and they decide to switch to electric guitar halfway through, which rules, and “Sunshine Girl” shows the band still has lots of energy left), and Peron is entertaining throughout. Loses points because I really don’t think I could listen to a full disc of this again. Just a wasted opportunity – let’s get a soundboard recording next time, guys!
Faust/Nurse With Wound - Disconnected (2007)
Another collaboration, this time with industrial dude Nurse With Wound. This is Peron's Faust, so it's not quite as noisy. There are four tracks, each over ten minutes, and none of them are as abrasively noisy as you’d hope (or fear). They concentrate again on droning patterns, with some industrial soundscape in the background and a pulsating rhythmic pattern in the foreground. Opener “Lass Mich” shows some potential for the album – it begins with acoustic guitars, and does lock into a nice groove – but, like “Rien”, it suddenly cuts out and doesn’t leave much in its wake. That’s the problem here – it’s not like the early Faust albums that offer all sorts of new sounds and techniques every minute, instead offering repetitive, ambient-like material. It’s not really too bad, but despite nailing Faust’s 70’s sound (it would not surprise me to find this album was released in 1972 instead of 2002) it doesn’t offer much, “Lass Mich” excepted – it’s dark and brooding, but it never climaxes the way it should. Definitely nothing I mind, however, and the bonus track appended to the US release (“Hard Rain”) is an exciting live cut, featuring all the abrasiveness you’d expect from Faust – plenty of yelling and industrial noises in the background (literally – it sounds like someone’s ‘playing’ a buzzsaw!)
C’est Com… Com… Complique (2009)
This was actually recorded in 2006, but they decided to sit on it for a few years because it is the same material that was remixed for Disconnected. So this is not really a new Faust album, but it’s fairly close and takes on an identity of its own. Allow me to digress for a moment - Faust’s career arc has taken a few turns in their 40 year existence, and their path always seemed to tell a story. Early Faust recordings were odd ducks, but they were vibrant, full of different sounds and different ways of processing those sounds, drawing from all sorts of genres, occasionally pausing for stunning moments of beauty. In a way they encompassed all sorts of emotion – not just fear and suspense, but happiness and excitement as well. But when Faust came back in the 90’s, they were far more somber and less exciting, making albums out of recording dry air in the desert. Ravvivando was the apocalypse, a whirlwind of activity that brought Faust to a higher place one more time, punctuated by a cavalcade of junkyard beats and stony grit – the sound was defined by loud, rusty, and powerful drums, with most of the other instrumentation having a metallic sound. Now, you come to C’est Complique, and it’s hard not to shake the ‘after the storm’ feeling - it's apprehensive, but not too abrasive, and the tension is not so much created by the music as it is inherent in the way it's played. Once again the drums are the dominating instrument, with all sorts of metal pipes used as percussion, and fuzzed-out bass holding down a rhythm as various spooky noises play in the background. Of course this is probably more due to the band not having a songwriter in it anymore (the band was reduced to a trio of Zappi, Peron, and one new guy) rather than anything I just described, but bear with me here. It’s an oddly affecting record, sounding something like Super Ae-era Boredoms-lite – long, droning organ notes, wordless vocalizations, repetitive and wonky rhythms that seem to have no beginning and no end.
The frustrating thing here is that the band seems more content with building up tense instrumental passages than actually leading to some kind of climax. The first track illustrates this right away – we get a fuzzed-out guitar and bass line with frantic panting and heavy breathing in the background, but the track does not really develop past that. In a way the journey is the destination, if that makes sense. But altogether, this is a neat record with some cool moments – for example, “Bonjour Gioacchino” (most of the song titles and lyrics are in French) samples a clip of tense film music and lays it out in the background against a noisy jam, and the finale, the title track, is as hypnotic and spacious as they’ve ever been. Juxtaposed are the moments of beauty, coming this time in what sounds like a French folk song (“Petits Sons Appetissants”), and a sadly all-too-short acoustic-led piece called “Lass Mich”. In the end it's somewhat good and somewhat of a chore, but there is a lot of replay value here so I can't rate it poorly.
Faust is Last (2010)
The early hype (based on something Irmler had said) was that this would be Faust’s final album, and if it was it would have been a good way to go out. The cover depicts another X-Ray hand, this time not made into a fist but rather with the fingers open. I like the symbolism. But it's apparently not to be - Irmler later said that this was only the end of Faust in its current incarnation, and that he had plans to re-tool the group (he's already released a collaborative project under the name Fauz't with Z'EV, who appears on this album). Of course, Diermaier and Peron still tour and record under the name Faust, so maybe it would have been better if he hadn't said anything. As for the album itself, this one's a double, with an "A" disc of harsh stuff using the same dumpster drumming and droning organ they've been using for years, and a "Z" disc full of longer, more meditative and atmospheric pieces. Like most of the post-reformation Faust, it’s full of mostly gray textures, sheet-metal guitars, distortion that mimics a blown speaker, and occasional bursts of noise. It’s very anti-melodic and in some cases not really very rhythmic either, but some of it is very good. There’s a very pretty organ-based piece early on (“Imperial Lover”) that sounds like some of the soothing and meditative stuff that Neu! used to do – with another version on the “Z” disc (“SofTone”) that has guitars over the top. There’s some primal, full-on rock energy (“Hit Me”, one of the most exciting things on here, and one of the few that I wish was longer), and even a take on old-school garage rock (“I Don’t Buy Your Shit No More”). “X-Ray” uses hammering electronic percussion, and it makes me wonder why they don’t do this sort of thing more often. I won’t say this album is tedious – the first disc fits 15 tracks into about 50 minutes, and the longer form stuff on the second are usually interesting – but there’s really no sense of humor or spontaneity, and many of the “sketches” don’t have much to distinguish them from the rest. It’s a decent listen from beginning to end though it kind of turns to background music for the last 10 or so minutes and you have to turn it up if you really want to hear anything. It’s not quite a return to the aggressive, busy, and sometimes beautiful style of Ravvivando, but the sound is closer than any of Faust’s other post-reformation work. The only instance of really harsh noise is the very brief “Cluster fur Cluster”, otherwise it’s fairly tame. Overall I’d say it sums up their post-90’s work well and is a good purchase if you’re a fan of that stuff or if you just wanted to see what Faust is up to these days.
Something Dirty (2011)
A new release from Peron's Faust, with Diermaier plus two new members, Gallon Drunk (and Nick Cave) guitarist James Johnston and keyboardist/vocalist/painter Geraldine Swayne. Make no mistake; this really isn't any different than the past incarnations of Faust, sans the female vocalist who gets some extended time here. Faust are still pounding out heavy-hitting, somewhat sluggish industrial rock - opener "Tell the Bitch to Go Home" is straight-up garage rock, while "Herbststimmung" is a noisy psychedelic jam, and the title track is an apprehensive groove with pounding drums. All of this is good, and it would be nice to get an album full of this type of material. However, there's a nearly 9-minute minimal bluesy throwaway ("Lost the Signal") right after, and by the end you may have forgotten you were actually listening to a new Faust album. And afterwards? A bunch of short experimental stuff, ranging from soundscapes to joke-type stuff ("Je Bouffe"), to guitar jams that are similar to the first few tracks (both "Daupfauslass" segments). And so it stays until the closer, a 5-minute dirge with echoing vocals, that slowly builds and gets faster until...it cuts off. End of album. I guess in a nutshell that is kind of how things are on this one; the material is basically static, not really advancing or building much, and then it ends. The first three tracks seem to promise an album full of tight industrial jams, but they never really get into that kind of groove later on the album. Some of the interesting segments ("Whet", "Je Bouffe") don't last long enough to get interesting, and even the nice change-of-pace folk melody that comprises "Save the Last One" is only given 20 seconds. All in all this really feels a lot more like a test run than an actual album; it feels like something the group put together after a couple of improv sessions. They do have potential though. I would expect to hear more out of this group soon.