Faust - Faust IV - Classic Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Faust - Faust IV

by Ljubinko Zivkovic Rating:10 Release Date:1973-09-21
Faust - Faust IV
Faust - Faust IV

Back in the late Sixties and early Seventies, German (at that time, West German) bands started coming up with some mutated forms of then standard rock forms, without fitting into the budding progressive rock genre, while actually really being progressive (in the original meaning of the term). Can, Amon Duul (I and II), Agitation Free, Popol Vuh, and many others, Faust being one of the ‘majors’, started to reach the ears of listeners outside German borders, particularly in England.

Somewhat stumped, the English music press coined a phrase to name the phenomenon - Krautrock. It was intended to be a pun, not too many Germans were pleased at the time. Today, it is a term that defines a respected and defined genre.

It seems that the first ones who ‘got it’ were Faust, the musical anarchists from Wumme. The legend, or maybe even a true story goes that they were more than just musical anarchists and that at the time they had personal ties with the Baader-Meinhof anarchist group. Still, that did not prevent the original five - Irmler, Péron, Diermaier, Sosna, and Wüsthoff actually formed and steered at the time by the omnipresent producer/manager Uwe Nettlebeck to come up with some incredible ‘anarchistic’ music, at times even defining the whole Krautrock genre.

After two incredible albums for Polydor (Faust and So Far), their controversial stance and slapdash approach to composition (that did actually work), they were promptly dropped and signed for then-emerging Richard Branson’s dream (that made his money) - Virgin Records. Actually, Faust Tapes, that sold for the incredible 50 pence was not only the first album Virgin issued but also the first to hit the charts. The feat was more incredible bearing in mind that it stayed in the charts for a while, even though the album’s name said exactly what was to be heard inside - a jumbled tape collage of absolutely, and I mean absolutely everything, from vacuum cleaners to gentle acoustic balladry snippets. While that musical coup worked, the question posed was - what will Faust do to come up with a ‘regular, made in England’ album?

The answer was contained in IV and it said - a Faust album. Meaning the definition of a musical sound that involved an improvisational process structured in the form of ‘relatively’ brief musical pieces. They had to include everything, or more precisely as many bits that can fit without losing some sense of musical shape and form. What actually came out was not only the best Faust album but probably one of the three best Krautrock albums and one of the albums that can easily fit onto any ‘best of ever’ lists.

Logically, it starts out with “Krautrock”, a musical composition (as opposed to a song) that at the time represented a tongue in cheek response to the term that was coined with its almost twelve minutes of shifting, pulsating mix of electronics and ‘regular’ and not so regular instruments. Actually, it was not only an ironic response, it turns out to be a composition that does define the genre it holds the name of.

The irony (and sarcasm) continue in more exposed form with “The Sad Skinhead” something that does have a shape and form of a song, with a Ska rhythm that almost falls apart, coupled with a pile of undefinable sounds and some intriguing guitar fills. “Jennifer” is essential Faust - a mutated psych ballad coupled with some intricate shifts and constantly booming, pulsating bass line and muffled vocals.

While “Krautrock” defined a genre, “Just A Second (Starts Like That!)", defined Faust and the band’s musical concept - a shifting, ‘arranged’ improvisation that turns into a musical collage, in this case, a condensed version of Faust Tapes. “Picnic on A Frozen River, Deuxieme Tableaux” turns into a wet dream of any prog rock band at the time (maybe even later) - a set of rock, jazz and classical musical progressions that work and make sense.

“Giggy Smile” easily fits into the category of ‘best weird ballads’ with its acoustic guitar, organ line and washes of subtle electronics and flamenco hand claps, topped with Péron’s vocals in French. “Lauft…” with its slowly building organ sound is certainly one of the drone/post-rock predecessors, while the closer “It’s A Bit Of A Pain” could be taken as some sort of a Faust take on then-prevalent California/Country Rock sound with the gentle, countrified melody and vocals being interspersed with a constant guitar buzz, a brilliant combination.

As the last moments of Faust IV simply fade off, the band was not heard from for more than twenty years. No wonder, it was an album that was almost impossible to repeat, even by Faust themselves. They have come up with more than fifteen releases since then, and while all of those have a high quotient of quality, none match the achievement of IV. But then, it was rarely matched by anybody else, for that matter.

 

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