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11 September 2014

Faust - 'IV' (Virgin)

The Nurse With Wound list taught us that Faust was not so singular; there were plenty of demented Euro-freaks throughout the entire wonderful 1970s making music that defied logic or categorisation. What made Faust so special was their impact - as a high-profile act, with records on Virgin and singing in English, their brand of madness could seep into a larger market than the so-called 'underground'. IV is really where you hear that - at times their most accessible record, with plaintive ballads such as 'Jennifer', and pop-skews like 'The Sad Skinhead' (which actually makes me think of the Homosexuals and their deconstructed song-based genius), but also opening with the 12-minute blast of 'Krautrock'. Tongue-in-cheek title aside, this track more or less invented the 'ecstatic drone' genre, or whatever you would call artists twenty-plus years later such as Skullflower, Total, Sunroof, Double Leopards, etc. It's not like any of the other dark, dense jams of its time apart from maybe some Japanese artists - the horizontality is more akin to minimalist composition, but the edges are poking out everywhere, nothing sanded down. It's somehow an entirely different beast than 'Sister Ray', too; there's less affect, if that makes any sense; it's muddy and fuzzy and endlessly replayable. The rest of the record is no slouch - 'Giggy Smile' is a jam of jams, and 'It's a Bit of a Pain' is a beautiful way to go out.  The rock parts have a warm, wooly recording and when there's electronic fuckery ('Picnic on a Frozen River') it sounds as soft and encompassing as the glowing guitar amps. If this is a summation of the first three records' experiments, so be it; IV is as cohesive and complete for Faust as Led Zeppelin's fourth record is to them. Why we don't have posters of this hanging in university dorms instead is a true shame. And this is it, really - the end of Faust proper. I know there's the Munich and Elsewhere record and the Tony Conrad collab and then the 90s and beyond, but this was the end of Faust in the 70s; four perfect albums and then they disappeared. As much as I love Rien and some of the later stuff, you can't help but wonder what the legacy would be if they had stayed defunct. There's always been something occult about Faust, even if they were actually more like absurd art-school kids in person (as I suspect); the word 'occult' does come from 'occluded' so maybe that's how it should have stayed.

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