Here at OBLADADA, Faust are one of our all-time favourites.
Scattered over numerous releases, and decades of tuning in, we’ve never heard them do anything less that startling. They have always given that sense; they wrote a succinct manifesto on what constituted Faust at the very start and have never deviated since.
To celebrate a release of this magnitude, here is our extended overview but for those curious brains in a hurry – the short choice is simply whether the CD or vinyl version suits you better?
The X-ray image of a fist feels like an omnipresent aspect of their work – but it’s never felt like symbol of aggression – more a hand raised in solidarity with the people, an act of defiance to all the artists and dreamers under one freak flag. Their chosen name is the German word for fist, and the character in legends that made a pact with the devil, in return for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasure. The typewritten typography, of their logo transmitting a timeless and practical form of mechanised immediacy.
Musically, Faust were always a psychedelic rock band but every sonic construction always has an element that corrodes, infects or steamrolls the whole. Endlessly looping, leaping from fragment to fragment, hippy noodling overlayed with toxic electronics, radical politics, filtered via a tumbling stream of English, French and German lyrics ground up into a Dadaist paste.
Bands like CAN, Ash Ra Tempel and Neu! were full of personalities but Faust somehow never really spot lit themselves as individuals. The band was made up of producer and former music journalist Uwe Nettelbeck, with Werner “Zappi” Diermaier, Hans Joachim Irmler, Arnulf Meifert, Jean-Hervé Péron, Rudolf Sosna and Gunther Wüsthoff, working with engineer Kurt Graupner.
Beyond the few photos of them grouped behind the mixing desk or walking through the German countryside, they were shadows on their own records. What any of them did was never as important as what ultimately got captured on the tape.
It was clear they could play it straight (and they were technically amazing) but simply making music that sounded like it had been spiked and radicalised seemed the far more exhilaratingly adventurous route over all those sides of vinyl.
This box set covers their first period, a time of dazzling creativity, before they vanished. They did however reappear in 1994, in various confusing configurations, and have continued to perform live and release new and still vital music to this day…
This new collection does something amazing. A grouping of 4 albums we know intimately and love deeply alongside 3 previously unheard albums from the same period, and a further collection of two 7” singles. 84 songs covering just short of 5 hours of brain searing perfection.
Originally released on clear vinyl with a transparent sleeve – this album does its best to remove itself from any physical form, its final words re-enforcing the whole concept –‘nobody knows if it really happened…’.
The first few seconds of Faust’s sonic birth feels like crash landing through magnetic storm clouds as snippets of the Stones and Beatles tear themselves apart. You’ve just been transported into their rural studio in Wümme, things are different here, and things will never be the same again.
Why Don’t You Eat Carrots quickly blossoms into a fever dream of mechanised toy soldiers rendered against a wonky Zappa groove. Electronics start to scribble over every surface, guitars melt, a mass of voices insistently outline the bizarreness. A path forms in snatches of conversation, elements drop in and out of focus, the madness grows. Meadow Meal fragments even more between upright focussed passages, ridiculously flashy guitar soloing before tailing off into huge ambient smudges of organ and incoming weather fronts.
The 17 minutes sweep of Miss Fortune is however where things truly start to wormhole. The thumping kosmic grooves whips the opening few minutes in an ecstatic mutating frenzy. Again, the whole thing breaks into pieces, reforming like a dress rehearsal of some LSD opera before exploding into a thunderous drumming peak. Endlessly, the elements stack together like bizarrely compatible neighbours in some huge, collaged scheme before ending in a beautiful nonsense poem, each word alternating between voices and stereo channels.
Faust’s first album delights in the fact that, via a single continuous groove, so many clearly unrelated events, peppered in beauty and dipped in the grotesque, can still be pulled together into a fizzing and unified experience.
It’s easy to assume So Far, as the first album’s conceptual nemesis. Encased this time in an impenetrable matt black. So Far has a more polished sound, possibly from growing pressure by Polydor to bring something more rounded to market, after the huge advance and not much interest in the debut.
The opener is one of the most inspired songs ever. It’s A Rainy Day Sunshine Girl is the result of some minimalist alchemy – a gathering of the tiniest, most potent musical gestures into a cave man drummed anthem. Music devoid of any flab or excess, the title repeated like an unfolding koan, accumulating into a mind-blowing high. Electronics, harmonica all get blocked in until the almost decadent shronk of saxophone finally blows the roof off.
On The Way To Abamäe wrong foots with its authentic folky stylings before No Harm, an epic nonsense mantra thunders on. The title track So Far regroups into bizarre rhythmic clusters and a shuffling trumpet lined groove.
Mamie Is Blue is a fuzz laden monster that never fully sharpens into focus whilst I’ve Got My Car And My TV starts like a kids theme tune before slowly drowning a jazzy delirium. Picnic On A Frozen Lake and Me Lack Space… are little more than odd hallucinations before the drunken house band close with the almost sanity of …In The Spirit.
So Far is another blistering collection but given what came before and after, feels a tiny bit more neutered, somehow toiling to ever match the savage perfection of the opening track.
Famously when it was released, the bands new label, the fledging Virgin records, decided to release the Faust Tapes at what was the going rate for a 7” single at the time – 49p! Presumably the bands work ethic, and growing stack of recorded fragments suggested this radical move was the way to go.
Whatever happened at the time, The Faust Tapes sold well and probably infiltrated several unsuspecting record collections as a weird curio. Absorbed by an unsuspecting public, it’s undoubtably the group’s single best album during this era, and it’s still an absolute stunner.
Made up of two untitled sides of vinyl originally, The Faust Tapes has now transformed itself into a rapid-fire odyssey through countless fragmentary edits, microscopic hair pin bends and an avalanche of ideas. 26 tracks, 18 for which are less than 90 seconds long but again, miraculously, the whole thing pans out like a completely adventurous head phonic journey.
There is so much packed into the album, the whole trip only gathers 3 times into anything that you could classify as a song. Flashback Caruso is beautifully fragile, sung in charmingly uncertain English, and the strummed manifesto of the closer Chère Chambre provides pools of psychedelic calm.
But the whole album hits its peak in an all-time favourite – the mangled perfection of J’ai Mal Aux Dents. A punk anthem blown out with tighten thrashing grooves, electronics and biting sax. The whole thing stands on the same molten spot for 7 perfect minutes.
These rapid firing jumps all start to convey glimpses of beauty, the plaintive Rudolf der Pianist is sublime, and its transformation into Riccochets every bit as inspired. Two Drums, Bass, Organ is the highest quality kosmic funky dynamite. Whether its power tools or bagpipes that Elerimouvid spits in your ears, it’s pointless doing anything other than letting the whole glorious mess overwhelm you, as its twists and turns become etched into your memory…
The bands 4th album was the clearest example of Faust playing around with what a song could be. It’s impossible not to see the opener Krautrock as a tongue in cheek primer for an entire genre. Krautrock is, in truth, one of the most blistering examples of space rock, a universe of amplified guitars and grooves. When the drums eventually slide in after over 7 minutes, the music locks together and seems to animate as that odd button, deep in your brain gets well and truly pressed.
The Sad Skinhead has a strange over focussed metallic take on reggae that feels like it exists 10 years after the album was released. Jennifer feels like a Syd Barrett epic that been corrupted in alien transmission. The twists here spoof a prog song but everything its far too searingly toxic to be anything other than razor sharp art. A lysergic fireball of guitars give way to twinkling ghostly keys…
Just A Second / Picnic On A Frozen River, Deuxième moves from grooves into submerged bleeping mayhem before Giggy Smile throws you into a form of instrumental delirium. However, the payoff comes in the odd time signature perfection of Läuft… Heisst das, es läuft oder es kommt bald?… Läuft! Again, in the bubbling pit of creativity the band effortlessly showcase their low-key mastery underpinning everything.
It’s A Bit Of A Pain as the bands final statement (until Rein, some 20 whole years later,) is well named. Whilst the song underneath is possibly the most laid back, they’ve ever been, the whole song is continuously threatened and subtitled with ugly electronics.
There are stories that Faust IV was recording under a cloud, but the silence the band disappeared into here has always felt like another part of their alure. Whilst many of their contemporaries soldiered on, most slowly ran out of ideas.
Not Faust, they just disappeared…
Having shared my life with these previous 4 albums since discovering the band in the creative flurry of art school and a very well-thumbed copy of Krautrocksampler some 25 years ago, new music by a band we love is daunting.
It’s easy to think why this music wasn’t released at the time, equates to the facts it simply wasn’t good enough. Ideas simply better captured elsewhere or supressed as the result of some contractual bullshit. Despite the fact, the bands trajectory was always a little confusing to follow, various collections like 71 Minutes of…, Munic & Elsewhere and several shady collections hiding on blogs, gave the impression all the good stuff was already out there.
As the 46 minutes of Punkt stretches out before you, the fruits of the groups labour, captured in Giorgo Moroder’s studio no less, it’s hard not to dissolve in a puddle of anticipation. The messy 9-minute thrash of Morning, complete with muttered foreground vocals quickly swamped in a thrum of industrial chaos is a perfect scene setter. Crapolino follows on, like a brief séance encroached by laser beams and fogbound mysteries.
Knochentanz spends 12 minutes building around a tightly wound rhythmic spine, tugged at by glassy trumpets as everything slowly mutates into corroded fingers. The music is completely static and at the same time a moving pulsating wall of musical fragments. Fernlicht is little more than a joyous muddle, but Juggernaut is immediately another stone-cold Faust classic – imagine the band jamming in full flight, electronics leaping around, dials waving in red, cymbals crashing, and everything encased in a lysergic focus.
The soaring piano led beauty of Schön Rund is just as bizarrely overwhelming as it slowly dissembles itself into jazzy particles. The closer, Prends Ton Temps spends its lifespan fighting to reveal its true form through a swamp of debris…
Punkt feels like a slightly different side of the band we only had glimpses of before, there is less jumping around mid-song into new voids. Instead, textures are built, your mind invited in and the slow descent into chaos feels more subtle.
Perhaps even more surprising are the two volumes of Momentaufnahame and it would be easy to instantly regard both of these volumes, as a seamless expansion of The Faust Tapes. A further grouping of 28 more snatches of what the studio had captured. The range is staggering, the inventiveness at times – breath-taking.
For us, these discs reveal what Faust spent most of their time doing whilst holed up in their legendary Wümme studio. Each of these fragments were all attempts to explore different settings, sonic marriages, textural effects, and layering. Sometimes oil and water do mix. This whole world feels creativity directed by their own version of Eno’s Oblique Strategies. All these apparent odds and ends are very deliberate vignettes built as proof of concepts. When they have yielded a result, they exist as perfectly formed miniatures or as the title of both of these volumes title Momentaufnahame in English means – moment caught in time.
Tracks like Gegensprechanlage have a groove sweeter than CAN and whilst the 20-minute jam edit would be super sweet – the kosmic groove only graces us with its company for just over 60 seconds of the track’s 3 minute life. Sequences like RéMaj7, Fin De Face and Vorsatz travel from ambient noodling to cavernous buzzing and blossom in epic ominous rock in one flawless sweep.
Lampe an, Tür zu, Leute rein! reconfigures Syd’s Floyd jamming with Bobby Beausoleil’s Freedom Orchestra for 6 zero gravity minutes before the crystallised perfection of Purzelbaum mit Anschubsen says it all in 42 seconds.
The Fear Of Missing Out deep fries a vocal element before somehow gathering into a fully zoned out carnival of oddities. Buried in the mirk is absolute beauty, but the long hairs freaks at the control desk seem to have a different sonic aesthetic from most humans.
Whilst tracks like Dampf and Testbildhauer are absolute chaos, again the transition to I am… an Artist is incredible. Industrial mayhem, and alarm wailing, teleport you into possibly the calmest and most beautiful track of the entire collection – the sound of a watery guitar gently wrapped in reverbed emptiness.
Both volumes of Momentaufnahame are momentous – and deserve to be wholeheartedly absorbed in minute detail.
It’s an odd effect but at the end of this huge journey, the two 7” singles somehow bottle the whole Faust mission most succinctly. The first, capturing the band’s first ever demo recording, Lieber Herr Deutschland that led to them being awarded a significant contract with fairly square label Polydor, and a previously rejected B side Baby. Both reek of the spectre of twisted garage rock, tape manipulated ecstasy and primal grooves to all be mapped out more fully…
But more surprisingly, the So Far title track offered as a single matched up with It’s A Bit Of A Pain, originally released in 1972 reveals the most. You can sense the label trying to wrestle out something that might catch the general public’s ear.
So Far’s unmistakably odd time signatured groove is back but this mix tries to make it as bright and as chart appealing as possible. However, the effect renders a mix that ends up, perhaps unintentionally wilder than the original which I suppose gives an indication of their entire project…
Faust, are impervious to simplification.
It’s clear, a lasting impression with this boxset is one of stunned amazement.
Admittedly, pricey sets like this can often feel like emptying the archive as a last-ditch attempt to milk the love as far as possible. It can be seen as a big and expensive gamble, packages bulked up with so-so live recordings that somehow get hastily rebranded as seminal. Worse than that, recent, totally awful, and irrelevant remixed material tagged on at the end of already perfectly formed albums. This box avoids all these dick moves and vaporises any such doubts.
This Faust Box is almost perfect. Not one of its 84 tracks is anything else than an intensively worked and reworked self-contained gem. 4 original albums stand together as bristling and uncompromising conceptual packages, essential points in any experimental music lovers syllabus, all freshly and crisply remastered into their befittingly definitive editions. The new material gathered here is all truly equal to them. This release is therefore a revelation…
The music is full of spiky and at times bewildering creativity, and it’s completely entranced OBLADADA for days at a time. Its arrival, even in promo form meant the first weeks we had it, we hardly listened to anything else or knew what else to listen to. Faust filled our heads to almost brimming, all over again.
A few years ago, International Harvester’s similarly knurled albums were collected alongside 3 albums of newly discovered material of equally breath-taking music, as the boxset Remains. That felt like more than it was fair to expect from a band that was already sublime.
This rare trend is repeated with the amazing Faust 1971 – 1974, already an UPPERCASE MONSTER of a band, in creative fireball mode, and somehow, now impossibly rendered even more amazing…
FAUST – 1971-1974, is released by Bureau B on 8 October
7-LP Boxset + 2 Singles (ltd. to 2000 copies)
8-CD Boxset (ltd. to 1000 copies)
LP1 / CD1 Faust
LP2 / CD2 So Far
LP3 / CD3 The Faust Tapes
LP4 / CD4 Faust IV
LP5 / CD5 Punkt
LP6 / CD6 Momentaufnahme I
LP7 / CD7 Momentaufnahme II
Single 1 A) Lieber Herr Deutschland B) Baby
Single 2 A) So Far (Single Version) B) It’s A Bit Of A Pain