Faust Tapes

Dominique Leone

Ground and Sky, 2003

Enter Wonderland. Faust were (are?) a German band of merry pranksters whose legacy may touch more of the modern avant-garde than any other band or artist. This is not to say that we're dealing with the classics, or a journey into academia, but rather a group that basically was the archetype for rock experimentation during an all-too-short first existence in the early 70s.

The Faust Tapes was not actually intended for official release, but was a collection of home recordings made by the band for friends. It was bought cheaply by the then-fledgling Virgin label, and sold for half a pound in English record shops. Incredibly, the album sold 50,000 copies, and for a time, every Tom, Dick and Mumsy was in earshot of real out-there, freakout, 100% mind-bending stuff. Talk about subversive, and the best thing about it is that it still stands up today.

The record consists of one track with 26 'passages'. Some of the passages are short bursts of noise, hyped-up saxes, anarchic drums, or psychedelic echo sessions, but the majority of the music here is something else entirely. Gil Evans inspired noir-jazz, whimsical magical mystery pop, gentle acoustic guitar interludes, garage rock, funky trash RnB, pensive piano solos, found sound, telephone conversations - it's all over the map.

It may sound like a lot to take in one sitting, and truthfully, if you have a distaste for experimental music, it may put you off. However, this is, at its core, fun stuff, and is certainly not 'noisy' in the manner of, say, early Boredoms (or even noisier Henry Cow).

While generally put in the Krautrock (a genre named after one of Faust's songs!) camp with fellow German visionary groups like Can and Kraftwerk, Faust are really a world unto themselves. This album, along with their first two official releases, makes a strong argument that rock music needn't require abundant technical proficiency or an arch concept in order to be considered prog. Ultimately, it may just need a love of music, an open mind, and an eye to the future. Faust had those things in spades.

Dominique Leone, "Faust Tapes", Ground and Sky 2003

ref: Ground and Sky