Faust : Rock du Marché Commun

Christian Lebrun

Best, Aug 1972

An excerpt from this article was on the cover of the first release of The Faust Tapes

In Spring 1971, Werner Diermaier, Hans-Joachim Irmler, Jean-Hervé Péron, Rudolf Sosna, and Gunther Wüsthoff cloistered themselves in a converted schoolhouse between Hamburg and Bremen, with all the necessary electronic and acoustic equipment, to produce their sounds and their music.They were called Faust. At present they are the most avant-garde group in Germany, if not the world. Faust, the first album to result from this single-minded retreat, was at first hearing quite disconcerting. From a tangled mass of sound snatches of The Beatles "All You Need is Love" and the Stones' "Satifaction" emerge, giving way to Why Don't You Eat Carrots?, a kind of electro-acoustic tide in which the riffs of an absurd fanfare can periodically be heard.

Then one listens again and finds that this sound-collage releases something,takes on meaning, and begins to make an impression. One starts to be intrigued by this totally transparent record, by the shifting dreams and incantations of Meadow Meal; one is surprised by the richness in the expressive chaos of Miss Fortune, which covers Side Two and which was recorded under live conditions. Faust are already unquestionably more advanced than any of their fellow-countrymen. They've mastered the nuances of electro-acoustic sound and employ this knowledge with audacity. In fact, one's only reservations concern the question of such experiment remaining widely communicable - for isn't there a danger of insularity ? To this, Faust reply: "It's not a record you can listen to all day. But when you've been listening to other kinds of music,it's really good to hear it."

Their second album, So Far, suggests that despite everything the group appear to want to increase the amount of help they give the listener. "We've nothing against dance music - we can use the sounds and effects we've developed in such a way now that people are going to really want to get up and move around to them." Thus, So Far, the title track, possesses a rhythmic regularity which lends an almost conventional stability to its progress. And It's A Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl, where one hears unsettling, persistent drums which measure out the length of a truly excellent piece. But, elsewhere, one hears more of Faust's dislocated, baroque music, spiced with fleeting quotations, with melodic irony, grotesque and grandiose , and with tension relieved by practical jokes. Faust remain one of the most exciting of today's rock groups.

Faust could well become the flag-bearers of German rock, which is already moving into a second generation. However, one can't help asking oneself about the contradictions which assail the group, as they do the majority of German groups. Like the others, the members of Faust are extremely lucid, as much on their positions as individuals (a perpetual examination of their situation, a perpetual renewal of this questioning) as on their social or political position; but they have been taken in charge by a commercial and industrial enterprise which is putting all it's might (recording, publicity, design) intot he battle, and which gives their music, more than in any other country, the look of a finished product, a marketable good which is to be launched with all the force of a new detergent. On the other hand they have chosen, whether they like it or not (and their statements indicate that they do), to express themselves more or less in the medium of rock music, a music that is by definition popular; but they run the risk of cutting themselves off from all social communication, in two ways: on the one hand, by shutting themselves in, cutting themselves off from the world at the record company's expense - not the best way to stay in touch with social realities; on the other hand rock music, as one knows, has never been favourable to avant-garde artists, but only to those of the moment - and Faust's music seems to be very much avant-garde.

Bob Dylan, believing that the Cuba crisis would let loose an atomic cataclysm, composed "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall", in which each verse was the theme of a song which he didn't believe he would have time to write. Faust's music is a bit like that; each musical phrase, each fragment, each quotation seems to be a part of a who;e music that time is pressing them to play. Will Faust's music, with it's immense contradictions, be the music to herald a social explosion? In any event, Faust remain one of the most exciting of today's rock groups.

Christian Lebrun, "Faust", Best 1972