Review of Wümme Box Set

Richard Fontenoy

Music365, 2000

Review of Faust: The Wümme Years

Three years of Teutonic experimentalism in one handy box

Few bands have been as mythologised as Faust. A group of German experimental musicians and/or hippies, they were brought together in 1970 by journalist Uwe Nettelbeck to form a pop band for Polydor to rival the Beatles. However, all the suits got were massive bills for Faust's three years in a converted schoolhouse studio, a ton of weed and some of the most outrageously innovative and influential music of the decade. The only problem was it wasn't commercial enough and when Faust later struck a deal with Virgin, Richard Branson quickly discovered he couldn't make them sell either, despite bringing out The Faust Tapes for 49p.

The lovingly-packaged box and booklet tells the story of this era with the proviso that each band member has differing recollections of the story. And therein lies part of the fascination of how the band recall what really happened. Naked darts matches, drunken tomfoolery with loaded guns, constant recording and oodles of drugs - by all accounts it was a blast. But in the moments in between such goat-acting the band developed some still-stunning songs and highly advanced recording techniques.

Faust made three albums proper in this era - the stunning Faust, the more accessible So Far and the amazingly weird The Faust Tapes - a record which dismayed many purchasers attracted by its cheapness with its curious blend of avant-garde experiment and freaked-out Kosmische rock. All three are included in this box, remastered and available outside Japan on CD for the first time.

There's also a reworked 71 Minutes (a collection of two rare albums from Recommended) and a CD of John Peel Sessions and other rarities to tempt the collectors. Fans might already own most of the set, but the whole really is an essential purchase for the interviews and previously unavailable pieces.

Did you know?

- Faust's first gig took five truckloads of equipment to set up - two of them were empty and one filled with empty tin cans set up to mimic a pipe organ which hulking drummer Zappi Diermaier promptly destroyed. The band also tried to solder twenty-four miles of wiring together onstage with no success, so they sent the audience to a bar while the assembled label executives left in a huff. Some band members recall this as their best show ever.

- Despite being sacked by Virgin, Faust rented an expensive hotel and studio in Münich in the label's name, ran up a massive bill and smashed through a closing gate to try escaping without paying their bill. They were too stoned to run away and ended up in jail for three days.

- Various recent shows from the band have involved the liberal use of explosives, smashed televisions, naked action painting of a wall of record sleeves and the letting loose of flocks of sheep to calm the audience after all the excitement.

Richard Fontenoy, "Review of Wümme Box Set", Music365 2000

ref: Music365