Faust – Faust IV

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Release Date: 09/21/73

Photo: Sound on Sound

Je n’ai plus peur de perdre mon temps
Je n’ai plus peur de perdre mes dents

(I’m not afraid of wasting my time
I’m not afraid of losing my teeth)

I’ve come to realize that there weren’t too many bands until the early ’70’s where it sounded like the band didn’t know or care what else was going on in the musical world. Between Comus’ incredibly odd 1971 release First Utterance, Gentle Giant half-hinting at normal Prog Rock half the time, then spending the rest with incredible musicianship that sounds way ahead of its time, to this, Faust’s 1973 masterpiece Faust IV, this early assumption of mine has been shattered.

The first track, a 12-minute instrumental piece, precedes Post-Rock/Shoegazing by a couple decades. This would be a statement enough if they stuck to this sound for the rest of the record, but they don’t. The next track “The Sad Skinhead” is ostensibly a ’60’s psychedelic inspired pop-rock track, yet the early synthesizer elements that make their way into the recording, combined with the over-compressed kick drum, makes it sound out of a much later era.

The 7-minute “Jennifer” is another album highlight. It’s generally a pretty chill track, but it also gets quite chilling. There are challenging noise elements sprinkled throughout. This is the sound of a band far, far ahead of its time. At this point in the record,  it’d be pretty difficult to pin down when this album was from if you didn’t know better.

“Just A Second (Starts Like That!)” is pure psychedelia for the first minute before devolving into synth-noises for a couple minutes. It’s one of the more challenging and interesting tracks on here. It’s hard to do noise right. You have to ride that cusp between making the listener want to turn it off and somehow being impressed. Impressed by the audacity, or impressed by the skill, it doesn’t matter. Still, you’re going to need to come into this album with at least some tolerance for unadulterated noise.

“Giggy Smile” features probably the most noticeably ’70’s sounds on here. The guitar parts can get pretty early-’70’s rock sounding. There’s a sax solo too. The goofy vocal melodies keep it from being, um, “normal,” though. Even though it’s a long song with many parts, the changes, as well as the musical passages themselves, are strange enough to be some sort of unholy mix between ’60’s psychedelic rock and the Prog rock of the time period. Not being afraid to get noisy or a bit dissonant also sets them apart. Even stranger, they even get into Jam band territory for a bit, but due to the stylistic nature of the music, it feels a weird association to be making. The fact remains it certainly makes for some highly interesting listening.

Based on the above explanation you may be thinking: isn’t explaining this combination of sounds essentially describing its own genre? Well yes. Technically this is considered “krautrock.” I have to tell you, this is perhaps a less useful umbrella designation than “post-punk” or “new wave.” I’ve listened to several other Faust albums and other “krautrock” bands. The difference here is just as large here as it is between Joy Division and Gang of Four. Arguably the other most well-known “krautrock” band of the time period, Kraftwerk, sounds nothing like this. They’re mostly an early electronic group, really.

The next track “Läuft…Heißt Das Es Läuft Oder Es Kommt Bald…Läuft” starts with pretty ’70’s sounding acoustic guitars, and is sung in French. So there’s that. “It’s A Bit of a Pain” ends it out a bit more melodically, though there’s a loud synth noise that rears its head for a bit on a couple of occasions that is simply jarring. This was also a single. I don’t know what the hell was going on in Germany in 1973, for this to be a single, but I digress… Then there’s some female spoken word French and a crazy, highly effected guitar solo all while this beautiful piano and acoustic guitar music is playing… It’s a bold, bold album (and a bold single!).

I used to be one of those people who thought the early-to-mid ’70’s had little-to-nothing to offer. After all, punk and its many related movements started in reaction to the popular music at the time. But now, after so many years, and having such easy access to music from times past, all these great artists are gaining exposure and has proven there is a lot to offer from this era. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Faust IV is undoubtedly one of the era’s best.

Highlights: “The Sad Skinhead”, “Jennifer”, “It’s A Bit of A Pain”
Rating: 4.75/5
Purchase: Amazon
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