BBC Sessions

Peter Marsh

BBC Interactive, 1996

A review of the BBC Sessions

There's a pretty convincing argument for saying that of all the bands lumped into the 'Krautrock' category, Faust were the most visionary and inventive. Working in their own studio with their own engineer and living communally may have had something to do with it, plus having the luxury of a major record company (Polydor) bankrolling the venture can't have hurt. Maybe that explains the gleeful abandon and restless experimentation that permeates their music.

Between 1971 and 1973 Faust rolled out four albums of fantastically inspired music which took in tape cut ups, bizarre primitive electronics, Velvet Underground style riffing, meandering improvisations and peculiarly skewed pop songs, all laced with surreal humour. In the process they arguably pushed the envelope of 'rock' much further than even the early Mothers of Invention records, ending up in a strange place midway between the garage and the electronic music studio. Unsurprisingly, they found an early supporter in the form of John Peel, and ended up recording in the UK for the nascent Virgin records when Polydor woke up and realised that they were unlikely to reap much of a return on the band.

This CD captures Faust at their peak in 1973 at the BBC and adds a slew of recently unearthed material plus a couple of previously issued tracks. Apparently bewildered BBC technicians recall a steady stream of dishevelled long haired Germans wheeling strange perspex boxes into the studio. Indeed, engineer and unofficial seventh member Kurt Graupner's work is much in evidence throughout, treating instruments, providing tape manipulations and concrete episodes. On the opening The Lurcher, Gunther Wüsthoff's saxophone trails off into grainy pitch-shifted clouds of reverb over a stiff proto-funk vamp, eventually boiling down into a pastoral episode of almost folkish guitar from Rudolf Sosna. Suddenly we're into the mighty (and ironically titled) Krautrock, a hugely distorted throb of a riff that slowly expands and contracts while it motors to absolutely nowhere, like a dystopian take on Neu's road music. Party 9 overlays chirping electronics above Joachim Irmler's magisterial fuzzed organ lines and Jean-Hervé Péron's Phil Lesh like bass. Elsewhere, distorted children's voices scream 'Happy Birthday' over a rock and roll piano riff punctuated with sleepy acid fuzz guitar. Wonderful. An alternative take of So Far (title track of the second Faust record) marries a stripped down take on Temptations style psychedelic funk with deep space electronics, while the melancholic sub-aqua piano of the closing Meer is simply beautiful. A fine release from Chris Cutler's ReR label, who singlehandedly kept the Faust name alive after the bands demise in 1974, thus providing the inspiration for their reformation in the 90s. Great stuff.

Peter Marsh, "BBC Sessions", BBC Interactive 1996

ref: BBCi