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Tony Conrad - Tony Conrad & Faust: Outside the Dream Syndicate CD (album) cover


Tony Conrad


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Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Glorious ecstatic hymns exclusively made of violin abrasive drones and freak-out dissonances, accompanied by drums sections and e-guitar bass lines. This intriguing album is now a true classic of contemporary music and progressive rock. This one captures the essence of minimalism music and the energy of rock. To be honest, this album looks like more to Tony Conrad's explorations in experimentation sounds and insistent droning performances than FAUST's hybrid rocking universe. "From The Side Of Man And Womankind" is based on a repetitive, ritual drum pulsation, giving the rhythm for long, monotonous, fuzzy violin drones (played by Tony Conrad); the atmosphere is wonderfully noisy, extreme and transcendent. "From The Side Of The Machines" takes back the same schema of composition but within a more colourful, dynamic flame, the result is completely "physical", throwing the listener into a deep "visceral" meditation. A landmark, epic album!
Report this review (#120060)
Posted Saturday, April 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Krautrock, particularly the more experimental strand, always had an affinity with minimalism; think of Can's metronomic rhythms, Neu!'s single chord excursions and the lengthy, near-formless electronic drones of early Kluster or Tangerine Dream circa Zeit. It's perhaps a little odd that Faust, whose recordings were among the most intricate and complex of the krautrock genre, should have participated in this album, perhaps the ultimate minimalist statement of the era.

Only two members of Faust actually perform on this recording, bassist Jean Herve Peron and drummer Zappi Diemaier. They were one of the era's more muscular and inventive rhythm sections, capable of rocking out but also of playing with great subtlety when the music demanded it. From The Side Of Man And Womankind sees the stone age hooligan stomp of It's A Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl stripped down to the bare minimum; tom tom hi hat tom tom hi hat two note bass line dead on the beat and one note drone on the violin plodding along for 26 glorious, almost static minutes. Zappi occasionally forgets himself and includes a cymbal crash, and there are slight tonal variations in the violin drone, but it's about as basic as you can get and utterly mesmerising into the bargain. The boys from Faust get to cut loose, relatively speaking, on From The Side Of The Machines; tom toms played with mallets, cymbal crashes and at least 4 notes on the bass, the whole thing sounding like a fragment from Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun or a similar psychedelic journey looped and repeated ad infinitum, with the Tony Conrad's single note drone floating in space as always. The musicians manage to create an enormous amount with almost no resources whatsoever, and they manage to make an eerily uplifting sound although it sounds like they're straining to avoid any form of self expression at all.

The original album contained just those two mighty slabs of noise, but the reissue includes some bonus items. Two short pieces open disc 2; The Pyre Of Angus Was In is presumably a reference to Conrad's contemporary (and briefly member of The Velvet Underground) Angus Macalise and has a similar groove to From The Side Of The Machines, with Jean Herve Peron getting quite melodic on his bass. The Death Of The Composers sounds like an alternate take of the same piece, with a bit more psychedelic grooving from the rhythm section. From The Side Of Woman And Mankind brings proceedings to a close, and it's basically From The Side Of Man And Womankind taken at a slightly faster tempo. Peron's bass occasionally slips out of sync with the drums and there's a touch more variety in Conrad's bowing technique; if you've been paying attention and you've listened this far, it makes an enormous difference.

If you like the post rock of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and A Silver Mt Zion, John Cale's viola contributions to the Velvet Underground, the hypnotic grooves of early Can, the academic minimalism of Steve Reich, Terry Riley and Philip Glass, the side long drones of Soft Machine Third or pounding rhythms of Faust then this is essential listening. If you're not into minimalism it might just make a convert of you. An emphatic 5 stars.

Report this review (#151914)
Posted Tuesday, November 20, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars In theory this should have been an easy album to review. There wasn't much to the original 1972 LP besides a slow, metronome drum beat, all but unchanging over each nearly half- hour side of vinyl, with some droning violas layered on top. And the expanded twin-CD reissue only doubled the monotony. Imagine the motorik rhythm of NEU!, missing a spark plug and slowed to a narcoleptic crawl.

At first exposure, "From the Side of Man and Womankind" (the album's entire A-Side) resembles a 27-minute intro to a song that never really starts. But as Tony Conrad himself told drummer Werner Diermaier: maintaining a steady pace for so long can be an incredibly hard task. And it's the same unyielding reduction of sound that likewise poses such a difficult challenge for listeners.

But what might have seemed merely interminable becomes strangely hypnotic when the track is reprised, in an even longer variation, at the end of the bonus disc. Of course by then you've been conditioned by over sixty minutes of minimalism in between, but don't worry: it's a very dynamic form of minimalism, owing little to the easily ignored ambient model pioneered by ENO and others. The two separate versions of Conrad's "Mankind / Womankind" each create a considerable amount of tension by doing next to nothing, exploiting the suspense of unfulfilled expectations.

The album was credited to Mr. Conrad, with the Krautrockers of FAUST in a supporting role. But the second half of the LP ("From the Side of the Machines") reversed the marquee sequence and put the Germans in charge of building an equally relentless groove, "more like rock 'n' roll", according to Conrad. Clearly, his notion of rock music wasn't grounded in the usual roots of Rhythm and Blues. And Faust, being Faust, responded with one of their best and most quintessential lockstep jams.

Oddly enough, the "Machines" side actually sounds more human than "The Side of Man and Womankind", with a little variety to the drumming, and with the bass guitar extending beyond a single note. Maybe it's the harmonics of Conrad's overdubbed strings, but there's an almost Celtic aura to the music, making it sound like an angry mob of alien bagpipers invading Lower Saxony. The tightly controlled psychedelia (not an oxymoron) makes for a thrilling experience, and one of the great unsung Krautrock epiphanies of the early 1970s.

For the sake of lazy comparison, you can fit this album neatly onto the same shelf next to Fripp & Eno, as a more Teutonic "No Pussyfooting". A generation later it remains a timeless classic of (edgy) electronic meditation. But this belated admirer will need some time to fully absorb its mysteries, before awarding the effort that inevitable fifth star.

Report this review (#914094)
Posted Friday, February 15, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Although Faust are, as advertised, providing the backing here, it's the sonorous droning of Tony Conrad's violin which is the big draw on Outside the Dream Syndicate. Imagine, perhaps, a response to Tangerine Dream's Zeit without electronic tampering or other tricks - just bizarre, otherworldly sounds being wrung out of Conrad's instrument. Recent editions add an expansive bonus disc, though I'd say the best material already made it to the final cut of the initial release. May be disappointing for those expecting something with the energy of Faust's own albums, but come in prepared and you'll find a curiously rewarding trip herein.
Report this review (#1079908)
Posted Thursday, November 21, 2013 | Review Permalink
Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams
5 stars A couple of years before I've for the first time listened to this album, that had given me no interest actually. And relistening this time stuffed my brain with amazement. Auditory sense and feeling have altered, and the quality of this album has never changed ... one of the masterpieces in the minimalistic music scene, that would exert remarkable influence as a vanguard upon younger artists I'm sure.

And don't forget this fact it's really not only Tony's monotonous violin string but also FAUST's rock universe to define, describe this suite essence. Of course, there is no suspicion Tony's soundscape filled with dissonant violin sculpture should touch (or blow) our heartstrings. And in addition, every member belonging to Conrad-Faust Commune tells a wondrous story along with hypnotic hysteric tribal rhythm basis.

Confusion between symmetry and dissonance is here and there, especially an enigmatic behaviour at the last stage of "From The Side Of The Machines" is awesome. The Commune would express multidimensional melody structures upon five pieces respectively, I guess, and it's another mystery such a confusion cannot sound of discomfort nor annoyance but sensational hallucinogen. 'The Dream Syndicate' as he says means musical realism itself ... yes Conrad Commune launched idealism definitely. This idealism via their simple linear tonic unity should finally see the brilliant starshine in Krautrock scene.

Who believes "The Death Of The Composer"? Chuckles, Tony's grabbed an artistic life of eternity. Exactly a neat one where we cannot feel the total time length of the whole creation, and I'm very happy to get this album as vinyls.

Report this review (#1530401)
Posted Friday, February 19, 2016 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars 3.5 stars. Tony Conrad was an experimental violinist in the 60's from the USA so it seems like the perfect match that he would hook up with FAUST and record his first solo album in 1972. He flew out to northern Germany and over 3 days at this farm they recorded "Outside The Dream Syndicate". I'm reviewing the original album which consisted of two side long tracks both over 26 minutes.

"From The Side Of Man And Womankind" is mostly Tony and his droning violin along with the FAUST drummer. This is a tough listen. I mean 26 minutes of repetitive droning with drums that play the same speed and style throughout. Man that must have been hard, discipline is the word for that drummer. This is a low 3 star track in my opinion. The violin actually changes some before 19 1/2 minutes or maybe I just dozed off there. So repetitive!

Track two is "From The Side Of Machines" and features the FAUST guys leading the way this time. They actually change the tempo and sound in this one and make it somewhat interesting even though this too is repetitive. Still we get bass and synths along with the violin and drums here. Some powerful moments too as this plods along. This is a 4 star song and 3.5 stars is my rating overall for this album. Yeah I might get some hate mail for this one but even the ones giving 5 stars talk about how monotonous it is(haha). Minimalism is the word, especially for that opener. Droning is another. One reviewer said about this album "Behold the glacier with an amplified pulse". I like that one. So a very good second tune but the opener keeps me from giving this 4 stars.

Report this review (#2600593)
Posted Friday, October 8, 2021 | Review Permalink

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