The Sound and The Silent : Nosferatu live at Manchester University. 28/10/00

Paul Donnelly

28 Oct 2000

If anyone could wake the undead this would be the band to do it, so the flyer for the gig was appropriate. Faust have a reputation for the unusual during their 'live' performances : threshing machines, welding, chain saws and various industrial implements ranged alongside their more conventional instruments. You can be sure there will be lots of metal and things will be struck. I wasn't sure how this would sit with a backdrop of F.W.Murnau's famous silent film, "Nosferatu".

It has always seemed to be a film that worked without a soundtrack. A 'silent' was how I had always thought of it. Turn the sound off and watch the actors.

One look at the stage confirmed my misgivings ; a giant frame which held one of the drums cast a shadow on the screen behind the banks equipment, which , in turn , leant their shadows. This was before the band came on. However, when the various anonymous figures crept on there was no problem. They played. Just that. No film behind them. The music was just what I had hoped for.

They set up a dense, percussive wall of sound ,obviously led by founding member, Werner 'Zappi' Diermaier. He belted drums and metals and became the focus of attention. A large figure in a short cape, I did wonder if he was sending himself up, looking a little like a "Nosferatu", desperate for something to hit rather than bite. He was the most visible, apart from the bass player, Michael Stoll, who stood close to front of stage. The others, hidden behind the equipment, were : Hans Joachim Irmler, Steven Wray Lobdell and Lars Paukstat, in other words, the line-up that produced the powerful Live in Edinburgh CD in 1997.

As soon as the opener was over the film began. The somewhat creaky black and white images jerked to life while the band continued to raise the level of sound and fury no matter what the individual frames may have been showing. Don't get me wrong, the music was exactly what I wanted from Faust, unclassifiable at times, abstract and driven. There were moments of floor-shuddering intensity, lengthy slabs of juddering improvisation that equalled the best of their Edinburgh cd. There was even a bit of angle-grinding. I just wasn't sure that what they played always fitted what was happening on screen.

There were quieter moments when Michael Stoll took up the upright bass, bowing, plucking and scraping sounds. He also played flute and contributed wordless vocals. It was sometimes difficult to know which of the other, barely visible, three was producing the extraordinary layers of sound but it didn't seem to matter. Faust have always been, for me, a collective of sound rather than a group of soloists. The overall textures of the music represent their identity.

They are also a band noted for spectacular antics on stage but on this occasion they seemed more restrained, perhaps in deference to the film. At one point in the proceedings a less than spectacular firework went off front of stage. There were a few white sparks. There was smoke too and it obscured the screen.

There was another firework later when Diermaier held one up and yelled in German while the firework fizzled and he occasionally glanced at it, uncertainly. Shortly afterwards, again at the front of stage, a range of metal objects burst into flames, a bit like a barbecue. It was hardly the destruction and mayhem that is one of their trademarks but again they are not a band to do what is predictable and the audience were also there to watch the film. At times, it was an uneasy combination.

I think what I'm saying is that the gig was an attempt to fuse diverse elements of sound and visuals and it didn't always come off. The music, which at times could move anyone's internal organs, was fierce, grinding, exhilarating and primal. It was certainly not a disappointment. And the film, which perhaps should have been ideal for such a band to provide a soundtrack to, is still best seen as intended, as a silent movie.

They finished, as they had begun, without the film, and we were treated to some pounding, visceral music that left most of the audience clapping for an encore. Faust, being the band they are, didn't return. I'm not sure what some of the audience made of it but there is no band like Faust and I'm glad I was there. I've waited a long time to see them.

I'd tell anyone to see both the band and the film but maybe not together.

Paul Donnelly, "The Sound and The Silent", 2000