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Faust - Faust IV CD (album) cover





3.92 | 231 ratings

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3 stars This is the Faust album that divides opinion like no other - to some (notably Julian Cope in his book on Krautrock) it's their lost masterpiece, to others it's their weakest moment. Having been signed to Virgin, they found themselves for the first time recording away from their notorious Wumme studios and the remarkable artistic freedom of those early years was drastically curtailed. When the recording budget ran out (a frequent occurrence in their anarchic career) the record company took what was in the can and released it, the work of a severely disgruntled band, to an apathetic public. it would be 20 years before they released another studio album, though they continued making music, and reissues and previously unreleased items appeared throughout the 80s.

What we're left with is neither a lost masterpiece nor a disaster. Perhaps the best way to think of this album is as an unfinished piece of work, which is certainly how the band themselves saw it. The album opens with the swirling electronica of Krautrock, which sounds like the Velvet Underground mangling Fur Immer by Neu!. Good stuff, especially when the drums kick in round about the 6 minute mark, but compared with Munic A and Munic B from 71 Minutes of... it sounds rather thin - this is a track which was released without Faust's legendary studio wizardry being applied in post production, and it shows. The Sad Skinhead is a light hearted attempt to replicate the neolithic bootboy stomp of It's A Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl which has some good ideas - shambolic reggae backbeat, possibly the world's first example of ska marimba, ahead of its time new wave guitar - but it would have been better off as a b side or a bonus track. Things pick up considerably with Jennifer, a rambling piece which recalls So Far and which shares that albums dream logic - the song gradually detours into a honky tonk piano solo that appears to have wandered in from another album altogether. Just A Second sees the band again firing on all cylinders, a brief but potent instrumental piece of krautrock madness. Picnic on a Frozen River reworks a theme from So Far and combines it with Giggy Smile, which can be heard to far greater effect on 71 Minutes of.. as Party 6. While this track has its moments, it soon descends into the kind of loose jam session that the band would have surgically mutilated into something more interesting given the chance. Lauft.. is another piece which gives the impression of being properly finished (and which is mistitled as Giggy Smile on the Virgin album) with a hypnotic dub reggae harmonica weaving through the deceptively simple arrangement. An alternative but equally good take can be found on 71 Minutes of... under the title Psalter. This is followed by a meandering piece of electronic noodling before the brilliant It's a Bit of Pain rounds things off in vintage Faust fashion, swinging from laid back to blood curdling in the twinkling of an eye and showing that they still had some bite.

Whilst it's certainly their most accessible release, Faust IV is not the overlooked classic it's sometimes made out to be. It's a good introduction to the band, particularly in the UK where it's a mid price release, but it pales in comparison with other material from the same period. Many of the tracks, and their alternate versions, can be heard on their excellent website, should you wish to make the comparison.

Syzygy | 3/5 |


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