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29 July 2014

Faust (Recommended)

I got into Krautrock while a sophomore in college, circa 1998-99, and at the time I devoured all the big names (or at least what was available to me in the pre-Napster days, with a limited budget). You can read already my thoughts on Agitation Free, Cosmic Jokers, and Dzyan; but the "big names" as I saw it, probably thanks to Julian Cope's privileging of them in his book, were Can, Düül and Faust. (In my mind I always grouped Neu!, Harmonia, Ash Ra Tempel and Brainticket into a 'second tier' which is pretty stupid --Brainticket were Swiss, after all -- but, hey, we take easily presented narratives and stick with them, especially when 19). My point is that Faust seemed like one of the essentials of Krautrock and to me they were the best. The absolute best. My compass is always wavering on which of the first four Faust albums I like the best, but you can make a strong case for any of them. This one tends to get overlooked, maybe because it has the least "songy" bits, and also because it probably wasn't as big of a seller. Years later, after having dug through the NWW list and all the obscure surrealist treasures that have been unearthed through blogs and reissue labels, Faust "1" (as I like to call it) stands out as something special. The overall presentation is ace - clear cover and vinyl, mysterious lack of info, creepy/scary X-ray fist - and then three stunning tracks. I first found a CD reissue of this secondhand and played it to death, but this vinyl version (a reissue from the late 70s, I think) really makes the tones pop out. This is extremely left-field when compared to a lot of the other kozmiche music happening at the time, due to the collaged nature and odd pop/folk forms that are woven throughout - but I think it actually sounds quite distinct from a lot of the less jammy, more surreal freak music of the 70s, like Mahogany Brain or Jac Berrocal too. This is 1971, and that's notable as well, because it somehow feels like a blueprint for the 70s to come, clearly built from the psychedelic times of the 60s, but completely singular as well. There's only three cuts here, and the first side is pretty iconic, with its melting marching band and 'a wonderful wooden reason'.... but it's 'Miss Fortune' that I really love to listen to. It's a beautiful composition, even when it feels discordant, and it introduces the Faust tradition of ending the albums with genteel acoustic bits. Whenever other artists are compared to Faust, it's usually because they have a short attention span or collaged together a bunch of different styles a la Tapes. But who's out there capturing the mystery, the enigma, and the spectacle? Faust in the Internet age surely couldn't happen anyway...

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