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Faust - Faust CD (album) cover

FAUST

Faust

 

Krautrock

3.88 | 234 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars On the more adventurous side of Germany's Krautrock spectrum, the Hamburg based FAUST took their name not only because it was the name of the classic German protagonist legend who made a pact with the devil but also because it was the German word for "fist" and therefore had a double impact and after experiencing this legendary debut from this highly experimental band that was way ahead of its time, it becomes clear that both meanings of the moniker apply. The band members Arnulf Meifert (drums, vocals), Gunther Wüsthoff (synthesizer, saxophone), Rudolf Sosna (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Hans-Joachim Irmler (organ), Jean- Hervé Péron (bass, vocals) and Werner 'Zappi' Diermaier (drums) all met in 1969 but didn't officially form FAUST until 1971. The second drummer Arnulf Meifert joined for the debut album but then departed.

Despite almost no history of playing together, FAUST was signed immediately to Polydor records due to the rush to cash in on the burgeoning Krautrock scene engulfing the German music scene however the various members had all played in the bands Nucleus and Campylognatus Citelli which apparently was good enough for the label under the Deutsche Grammophon parent company. Despite the band's newbie status, they were given full reign to have complete artistic freedom and were gifted the time, space and money to create anything they desired which sounds almost unheard of by any day's standards. With all liberties any such band could dream of, the members spent a year recording this debut album in a rural studio in the small town Wümme near Hamburg.

The band has stated that they basically wasted six months with alcohol, drugs and partying with only wild experimentation with sound effects emerging and only got their act together in the second half of the year. When it was time to cough up the goods, the band panicked but found a way to patch in all the avant-garde experiments with some more conventional musical output. The result was this bizarre amalgamation of Krautrock, musique concrète, sound collages, industrial noise and an early example of avant-prog many years before bands like Henry Cow took it to new levels. The result of this experimental mishmash was that it sold disastrously but did please the critics who were excited by such bold musical statements. Polydor's disappointment was followed by an equally disastrous tour that only demonstrated that FAUST was unable to replicate these wild antics in a live setting, nevertheless the band gained a cult following and would slowly but steadily gain an audience however not fast enough for Polydor who dropped them after three albums.

While bands like Amon Duul II and Can were going for the psychedelic jugular, FAUST took the surrealist's approach and crafted an album that took a multitude of musical styles, sound manipulations and chaotic displays of progressive rock attributes on steroids and cranked out one of the most demanding musical deliveries of 1971, a year when the progressive rock scene was just gaining full maturity. FAUST eschewed catchy melodies, 60s grooves or any other conventional means (for the most part) of musical expressions and instead constructed a rotisserie of tones, timbres, mood enhancers and playful antics that were cryptic, chaotic, complex and highly creative. The three tracks that constituted the near 36 minute running time consisted of side A delivering two lengthy tracks roughly around 9 minutes each with side B consisting of a single track that was just shy of 18 minutes.

The opening track with its absurd title "Why Don't You Eat Carrots" obviously found some Canterbury scene whimsy that was mostly absent from the nascent Krautrock scene but the music was dark, mysterious and atmospheric. The opener begins with FAUST's famous first impressions of heavy static that sounds as if it's leaping through various frequencies and happening upon popular music such as The Rolling Stones' "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" and The Beatles' "All You Need Is Loving" but the fleeting samples disappear as soon as they are detected and the inter dimensional trip through musical portals leads to new alien soundscapes. "Meadow Meal" continues this avant-garde musical journey into a labyrinth of sonic possibilities and only contains sparse dabbling of "real" music.

The lengthy closer "Miss Fortune" is the closest thing to a contemporary Krautrock track as it has lengthy psychedelic jam sessions interspersed by spastic eruptions of jazz, avant-prog and just plain weird outbursts of creativity. Perhaps my favorite part of this mondo bizarro flirtation with insanity comes from the cleverly recited poem where two members take turns saying a word in different channels while the band plays seemingly nonsensical sounds away in the background. This is where the Strawberry Fields forever blossomed into watermelons and the LSD kicked in full force.

There was literally nothing like this when this album was released and obviously a little too far ahead for many. Of course, Polydor demanded the band tame things down after the commercial train wreck sunk in and for the second album "So Far" the band crafted a slightly more accessible album, however FAUST remained steadfastly untamable and nowhere does that ring more true than this wacky avant-garde musical statement on this debut. The album originally was released with a clear cover of an x-ray of a hand silkscreened on the outer sleeve. The beauty is that somehow this flows from one insane idea to the next so perfectly. A true masterpiece of the avant-garde and the blueprints for both avant-prog and the bleak industrial music scene that followed.

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |

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