Faust
Centro Zo, Catania, Italy
Dec. 8, 2005

Nowadays to illustrate at length the decisive, multifaceted importance of the entity we call "brand" is not really necessary anymore. Just a few examples will suffice. Both Mick Jagger and Dave Gilmour, in the end, had to accept the commercial impossibility of a solo career on a par with the one enjoyed by the groups of which they were a part; the main difference between them being that, while the former is (was?) famous on a worldwide level, but has never been accepted by the audience as being more than a part of the group, in the case of the latter his identity was unknown to all but the hardcore portion of the fans of the group. We could mention other instances from both categories: think of The Who, then of the (so-called) "faceless groups" - a good example of this being Supertramp. One could mention cases where a strong but ultimately nebulous identity ("former Nirvana drummer") can work as a starting point towards more profitable shores ("the dynamic frontman of Foo Fighters"). It also happens that a brand can make a dimension as permanent for eternity ("former Stooge", "former Velvet Underground"), but sometimes this is well worth the candle; deciding when an asset becomes a liability is purely a question that's decided at the box office. Of course, consumers have many opinions - and it's not uncommon for musicians to get annoyed about all this; but would people pay their money, in the absence of that shiny brand?

A group whose 70s fame was "highly selective" but nonetheless well above zero, Faust have seen their brand become valuable; and even if the absence of some members would make the final result quite different, they decided to give it a try. Missing members: saxophone player and loop man Gunther Wüsthoff; guitar player, pianist and singer Rudolf Sosna; drummer Arnulf Meifurt; sound engineer Kurt Graupner. Present members: organ player Joachim Irmler; drummer Werner "Zappi" Diermaier; bass player, acoustic guitarist and singer Jean-Hervé Peron. The group's shares went up as soon as the group's name was associated with another brand name "à la mode among the connoisseurs": that of Jim O' Rourke, not yet a part of tired Sonic Youth. Of course, here opinions diverge quite dramatically, while there are those who consider albums such as Rien, Ravvivando and You Know Faust as good as any recorded by the group when in their prime, others (quite puzzled by the fact that "as good as Aphex Twin" gets considered as a compliment) beg to differ - which doesn't matter much, really, given the fact that the "mystical" experiencing of a brand is obviously "fact-proof".

So Faust get to play in my town. The line-up, however, is not the one that I was expecting from the Wire cover story of two years ago (Irmler and Diermaier + two other guys) but Diermaier and Peron + two other guys: Olivier Manchion on bass, vocals, acoustic guitar and melodica and Amaury Cambuzat on electric guitar and keyboards (both are members of Ulan Bator, which can be seen as a good, or as an extremely bad thing). For a few days my phone rang more often than usual, given the fact that old friends from way back wanted to know more; their enthusiasm got considerably colder as soon as they got to know about the (for me, quite usual) environmental conditions: no seats, cold place, concert ends at about one a.m. Would they come?

The night of the concert there are about two hundred people at the venue. Mostly young people, some faces I expected to see are not there, a lot of people being out of town for the holidays. On stage, acoustic and electric guitars, electric basses, a synth model that's relatively recent (it's a Roland) and an older one (it's a Kurzweil); there are also chains, metal sheets, a mixer (as in cement). The first track they play is It's A Bit Of Pain, the closing track off Faust IV. The whole is not too bad, Peron sings, but the whole goes towards a "noisy" climate that's quite banal and that's not at all appropriate to the original spirit and mood of the track. This group sounds a lot like a Faust cover band, not too bad, but nothing more, really (but given the standard of what goes on stage nowadays it's entirely possible that people who are here are getting the impression of being witness to something really special - who knows?). We get the same impression hearing other famous tracks from the past - The Sad Skinhead, It's A Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl, and the first song off Faust Tapes: here Diermaier plays that oh-so-important first drum roll wrong - and also for more recent stuff. The group works somewhat fine, and Cambuzat plays some appropriate stuff on electric guitar (using, I'd say, an old digital delay, the Memory Man model by Electro Harmonix, and a ring modulator pedal) and on keyboards (Whoosh! and Kraaa! on the Roland, pianistic ostinati on the Kurzweil). But all sounds as being played "by the numbers", and some things are not of any help: the chains against the (cement) mixer, the pebbles that hit the helmets, the dust in the air, the flamethrower, a tenor saxophone on one track (not really easy to hear, it looked like the guy was playing an arpeggiated ostinato) by a local musician, and five (local?) girls dressed in black that went "AAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!" on one track. Sure, no member of Faust was ever a virtuoso instrumentalist, and even the live shows of the old times told of a group whose perfect dimension was the studio; but at the time, it was their original style, and the mix of all those elements, that made one a happy listener; while here we know we've heard it all before, and a lot better than this. The few "cosmic" moments could come from one of those records by those US groups who cite Faust as an influence.

In closing? Ten euros well spent.

Beppe Colli


© Beppe Colli 2005

CloudsandClocks.net | Dec. 21, 2005


P. S. 23/12/05:
Not too long after this review was uploaded, a couple of friends of mine alerted me to the fact that the closing line of my review ("In closing? Ten euros well spent.") didn't appear to be a good logical match to what had come before. Well, it seems my sense of humour has failed me this time.
Since - for reasons too complex to be discussed here - I've decided right from the start to adopt a "printed page" policy for Clouds and Clocks (i.e., no written content is ever modified), I've decided to add this little P. S. to alert the reader that the final line is indeed meant as a kind of joke. Even though - when one's masochistic tendencies are taken into account, maybe - spending ten euros to call one's bluff could indeed be considered as a wise use of one's money.