Line Up, Crash The Sound
The last 5 years have seen both Can and NEU! take on some sort of belated iconic status whilst Faust are often seen, ridiculously, as 2nd tier in comparison. The "Wumme Years" box set was released and, in the main, ignored by the mainstream and underground presses. In Q magazine it received only 2 measly stars from, if memory serves me correctly, Ian MacDonald, one of their main critical proponents during the 70s. I don't know why he changed his mind so dramatically but I think most other critics can't stand their lack of 'songs'.
For me, Faust are the quintessential experimental rock band. With the emphasis most heavily on rock : I know that other music has been made which is noisier or mixes tonalities which have never been heard before or is simply more 'out there', free form, whatever. But exponents of these left field leanings never made use of the 'rock band' as successfully as Faust, even as they ripped it apart or made fun of it. This adoration of rock norms and the band's responses to them continues to delight me.
You can tell how important commercial music is to them by the snippets of famous songs at the beginning of their 1st track on their 1st (clear cover, clear vinyl) album :
mp3: Why Don't You Eat Carrots (7.7mb)
Maybe it's an imitation of a radio? In any case, the song is taken over quickly by some weird march rhythm and a restrained trumpet solo and then some fuzzed guitar (ah, where would the early 70s be without a fuzz box?) and a brass band and then some great bells and synth swarms before delving into spoken voice, parody piano and then combinations of all of the above as it spirals into nothing. So that's the whole Faust sound encapsulated into their very first 9 minutes. They could have stopped right then and made some sort of lasting impact. In any case, Gunther Wusthoff's emotive, ring modulated synth sounds still make me cry with envy.
They lived communaly near Wumme within their own studio, paid for entirely by Polydor, no doubt high on weed and acid, and had finally produced this ultra-strange record that surprised everyone other than themselves. But, as you'd expect, they were told to tone it down a bit, write some proper songs or else lose it all:
mp3: I've Got My Car and My TV (3mb)
The result was "So Far" which does have much less of the cut and splice that made their first album so magical. Instead the dumbed down rock songs they created are as catchy and almost as danceable as any music made in 1972. This track uses a harpsichord and stupid voices to start it all off and then goes into a sustained light groove worthy of the very best of 'Krautrock'. Just plain lovely, really.
Then Virgin records enticed them to the UK, where the grandness of the Manor studio beckoned, but instead they released an LP of bits and pieces recorded in Germany, edited magnificently by the whole crew at a price no-one in Britain could ignore:
mp3: J'ai Mal Aux Dents (7.3mb)
It's hard to supply a single piece that does justice to the scope of "The Faust Tapes" so I've just gone for the most obvious thing. It's another repetitive groove that never lets ups, starting with a hippy nightmare "ohmmm" and weirdos call to arms that turns into an speed soaked rant from Jean-Herve Peron about... who the fuck the knows? I'm sure he doesn't.
Their first real recordings in the UK resulted in "Faust IV":
mp3: Jennifer (5.9mb)
This album leads off with another dumb masterpiece - 'Krautrock' - that, really, isn't half as stupid as you think it should be and then slips into a slower, more reflective tone. This track sums up the record perfectly with it's dubby bass, echoed guitar, spacey effects and lovely melody that melts into a fuzz guitar wash and finishes with incongruous bar-room piano tinkling.
It's all unclear as to what happened after this period (maybe their dealer was killed), but their 5th LP never materialised even if the recordings continued unabated:
mp3: Munic A (9.7mb)
The inventiveness isn't quite as obvious anymore - this track is a great Can out-take for the most part. But they still manage to maintain a passion for the unexpected that can still surprise. All these bits and bobs were compiled by ReR and released in various EPs, LPs ancd CDs in later years.
Decades go by and Faust still keep going in one form or another even if there's only three of the originals left:
mp3: Listen To The Fish (8.6mb)
The fabulous Jim O'Rourke takes over the production duties and they release "Rien" which is as good as almost anything they've done. This track is the most sustained piece of drone they ever produced (apart from their work on Tony Conrad's "Outside The Dream Syndicate" - which wouldn't be anywhere near as magnificent if Faust weren't playing on it) but, as always, the cut and paste aesthetic is as pronounced as ever.
25 years later and they still manage to keep going with "You Know Faust":
mp3 : Hurricane (3.5mb)
OK. I know this is a pale immitation of past glories but it still contains inklings of some of the greatness of their earlier work. Zappi Diermaier, Hans-Joachim Irmler and JHP still manage to make music that is undeniably Faust and undoubtably unlike anyone else.
So... 35 years after they started, Faust are still making music. The latest years have seen some weird goings-on with the band members and the release of "Ravvivando" which suffers from a lack of Peron's surreal humour. But this year will see JHP and Zappi (plus some others, I suppose) take on the name of Faust and play a festival in September and then tour the UK in October and November.
So where the hell is Irmler? Squabbly families can be irksome, can't they?
[edit - go to Gutterbreakz and Idiot's Guide for more: synchronicity, eh?]