In the early 1970s, while the domestic rock landscape was a smoldering ruin, certain adventurous and/or elitist listeners turned to Germany. The music of Can, Amon Düül II, and Kraftwerk, among others, fascinated with its reliance on electronics and independence from the blues roots of the U.S./U.K. axis.
One of the most esteemed of these shadowy bands was Faust. The cosmetics of packaging added to the group’s allure: Its first, self-titled LP was initially pressed on clear vinyl with a silver embossed label, and housed inside a clear plastic cover along with a clear plastic insert sheet. A clear CD is technically impossible, but at least Collectors’ Choice Music has finally made Faust and its follow-up, So Far, available—both on the same disc—as non-imports. (Obsessives can find these and much more Faustmusik on an imported five-CD box from Recommended.)
Nearly 30 years later, the band sounds of its time in being ahead of its time. The first album opens with lifts from Beatles and Rolling Stones recordings; you can’t find earlier sampling outside of Dickie Goodman novelties. For many, though, Faust’s audio cut-and-paste will conjure images of Frank Zappa set loose in the Studio für elektronische Musik des Westdeutschen Rundfunks. But unlike curdled cynic Zappa, Faust maintain an optimistic sound—must be all those major chords. It also helps that the infrequent lyrics are almost all in Dada English.
Post-hippie one-chord jams betray a minimalist influence. That Faust in turn were influential goes without saying: Their free-form approach bears the seeds of skronk. But paradoxically, compared to the technology now employed in mainstream pop, these are veritable field recordings. For all the then high-tech overlay, this is still the sound of a group—albeit from another time, another place.