Faust: Clear

Phillipe Paringaux

Rock & Folk, Feb 1972

From the cover of the Faust Tapes

Germany seems to be the only country on the Continent capable of making a really original contribution to what we call rock music. Here come Faust, who confirm this suspicion, wnich had already been aroused by Amon Düül (and, as a matter of opinion, the former is even better than the latter). The essential reason for this Germanic phenomenon is very probably that these groups - who are neither British nor American and KNOW it - view rock as it is played in its lands of origin with a certain amount of detachment, eliminating to the best of their ability any attempts to reproduce a "feeling" which cannot belong to them; in this way they reject most of the musical elements which form the vehicles of this feeling, taking no more from American or British rock than a state of mind. The elements of their music they look after for themselves, and the fact is that this carries them a good deal further.

And so it is with Faust: more than the reproduction of emotions through the human voice, more than the explanation of these emotions through elaborate texts, more too than an instrumental virtuosity which hardly puts the instrunents themselves in question (it's not enough just to plug them into an amp to transform them), more than an exciting, hypnotic rhythm: the group has chosen to retain from all the elements of rock just that which is most neglected today: the investigation of new sounds, an area which is given so much attention on this album that it becomes the album's essential feature. Sound. Electronic and acoustic.

The record could have been subtitled "An Application of Technology to Rock'n'Roll". Once again the term rock'n'roll isn't enough to define a music which touches on all the 1imits of contemporary music. Faust hurl themselves regardless of all risks along this impassioned path, and travel to the very farthest esitrelnes of experimentation. The result turns out to be one of the most intense and truly progressive albums in the history of rock. Nothing less.

Noises never heard before, strange groupings brought together with a remarkable sense of sound aesthetics, burns and caresses, the grating of metal, the crackling of electricity. All the resources of the studio have been exploited with devouring curiosity - but also with a remarkable sense of proportion. Because - in the game of technique just for technique's sake - Faust risk nothing less than the loss of their soul. The soul remains intact through the crashing and grinding of a music which leaves all coldness behind and which, when it wants to, knows how to affect the emotions. And its intelligence continues through the whole album - behind the delirious, dizzying sounds to which it gives shelter a musical structure reveals itself, presenting a precise schematic profile around which irrational effects can be laid down. A structure which is a good guarantee against the chaos in which all attempts of this kind are in danger of drowning, a structure which is nonetheless flexible enough to allow the spontaneity without which all such experiments would become cold and lifeless - as happens with many of the explorers of contemporary music.

Here, moments of mania and moments of peaceful ecstasy are carefully distributed throughout the album, the first piercing, congested, tearing; the second sometimes suggested by the simple presence of an unamplified piano or some obscure recitation. The record opens with a long, jumbled feedback effect behind which one vaguely makes out the Stones singing "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" and the Beatles answering them with ""All You Need Is Love". Irony or homage ? The influence of these two groups on Faust is hardly in evidence - in fact, no influence is in evidence here and you have to bend your ear to make out, here and there, features which wouldn't necessarily be disowned by Zappa or last year's Soft Machine. The album closes with a dialogue between two voices, recited in the Velvet Underground manner. between the two of them an extraordinary, swelling, baroque sound, grandiose, grinding and harmonious, long pieces scattered among the fury of wild, liberated instruments, and moments of held breath, melody.

Faust is undisputably a group to be seen and heard. Will the success of the elder Amon draw them to our shores one day ? That would be risking quite a commotion - the objection that a studio work couldn't be recreated on the stage falls to pieces of itself: all the second side of the record was recorded live.

Don' t forget Faust.

Phillipe Paringaux, "Faust: Clear", Rock & Folk 1972