Thursday, September 23, 2010

SoundsXP reviews Faust single

So Far/It’s a Bit of a Pain Play Loud 7”

Article written by Kev O - Sep 21, 2010
Faust’s 1972 single (their one and only) gets a re-issue, and a re-mix (by Hans Joachim Irmler, founder and current member), to coincide with the release of the Klangbad festival DVD (see separate feature).

‘So Far’ is an instrumental: a simple rhythm chugs along, a sax stabs away, guitars and synth wail in and out. It’s a mesmerising drone, that doesn’t sit still and never fails to please. ‘It’s a Bit of a Pain’ (said to be John Peel’s favourite Faust track) is another side of Faust: a gentle acoustic, piano-led ballad/song against which a noise momentarily intercedes and a piano tinkles and a fuzzy guitar trails away to the end. Both are sublime. Although nearly 40 years old these could be seen as historical [‘Krautrock’] curiosities and ones for the collection , but they sound fresh and modern even by today’s standards and a reminder as to how insipid much of today’s music is. Do yourself a favour and feed your head: get this. REVIEWS KLANGBAD/FAUST DVD

Faust DVD twin film special: A Faustian pack
Klangbad: Avant-Garde in the Meadows/ Faust: Live at Klangbad Festival Play Loud!

Article written by Kev O - Sep 22, 2010
This is two films on one DVD documenting performances at the second Klangbad festival, held outside the quiet German village of Scheer (where the Klangbad label is based) in 2005. The first film 'Klangbad: avant-garde in the meadows' is 85 minutes of performances from nine artists - I use the terms 'performances' and 'artists' advisedly - including the legendary Faust. The second film 'Faust: live at Klangbad festival' is 70 minutes of the Faust set from the same festival. The connection between the two films is one Hans Joachim Irmler, founder and current member of Faust, who runs the Klangbad record label and curates the festival. He invited the film-makers (a crew of three) to film the event: their approach was to be simple and direct, economic and non-tricksy, in the manner of the 'Direct Cinema' of the 60s, an approach consistent with the festival itself.

You could come to these films cold, without any prior knowledge or background, ears and minds open. I suspect that this is something that Irmler/Klangbad would approve of; there is something free, experimental and downright unashamedly hippyish about the festival (which is non-corporate and sponsor-free), where anything seems to go. "Music is a form of communication" someone says. Throw away preconceptions, open yourself to possibilities, it seems to say.

In 2005, the 3 day festival is small, with one stage set in a wood, people sleeping in tents or hammocks down by the stream, drinking German beer and eating sausages. There is a naiveness about it - of a bygone era - and of the performances themselves which vary widely. There's the doleful (Death in Vegas-ish) electronica of duo Minit, the 60/70s politico-art proclamation from Jutta Koether, Steven Lobdell bangin' a gong (or hubcap) through effects to create something trippy and transcendental, Cpt Howdy's take on american garage rock, Circle's mesmerising mishmash of groove and heavy/death metal with looks to match (bizarre), the country-like mix of reed organ, double-bass and slide guitar of Kamerflimmr Kollektief-Hausen, the acoustic folk of Scotland's The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden, and the art-school act of Nista Nije Nista, that walks the line between playful and silly and irritating (think Native Hipsters' 'There Goes Concorde Again') and when interviewed they all speak at once in their own languages without looking at each other, one points to the sky and says "Rainbow". And there IS a rainbow in the sky. What a way to end the film.

So next to Faust. Do you need/want to know anything about Faust? If not, look away now. They are one of the 'Krautrock' groups - a term coined by the British music press to cover the range of bands emerging from the German music scene in the late 60/70s but not recognised by the bands themselves (who rather saw the term as a pejorative). That collective term ignored the fact that there was no real movement or connection between the bands, who were based in different cities, or even a defining sound, although all seemed preoccupied with creating a new musical identity, rejecting the past and the present (German post-war pop (schlager) and corporate American fodder) and embracing a future through experimentalism and new sounds afforded by the synthesiser and FX. Tangerine Dream, Can, Cluster, Kraftwerk and the proto-punk of Neu! are probably more known and readily available while the likes of Julian Cope faves Ash Ra Tempel not so – which possibly persuaded Stuart Maconie to play their first album in its entirety (two tracks!) on his Freak Zone show recently.

Among these, Faust (meaning 'Fist', as well connotations of Faustian pact with the Devil) emerged, becoming John Peel favourites and surprisingly popular (being picked up first by Polydor and then by the fledgling Virgin label), with an artful, playful but uncompromising approach to making music. This left the listener unsure where the music was going or where the sound came from. And perhaps it was no coincidence that it was Faust who responded to the Krautrock term by throwing it back at the British press with their mighty drone-based instrumental 'Krautrock' (Faust IV). Brilliant and awful music was made during this time. Whether it was brilliant or awful didn't seem to matter. It was the fact that it could be done. Is that a hippy or punk attitude? Does it matter?

But good things come to an end and groups split (Neu! split and elements became La Dusseldorf and Harmonia), Can went from a prog to a funky groove, Kraftwerk abandoned their experimental edge for listener-friendly synth-pop, while Tangerine Dream became corporate behemoths (and in every student's collection alongside Pink Floyd). Faust quietly faded away. Punk came and went. New Romanticism, Mod/Ska revivals, Rough Trade, Acid, Madchester, Grunge all raised their heads and then nodded off (ok Indie still snoozes along). But then Faust re-emerged - as two groups. How contrary, but how Faust! Each Faust has original members: one version has the maverick duo of Diermaier and Péron whilst the other is headed by Hans Joachim Irmler. It is the Irmler Faust that released the 'Faust is Last' album earlier this year (and reviewed here on SoundsXP). Irmler has also remixed the re-issue of the one and only Faust 7" (originally released in 1972) 'So far/It's a bit of a pain' (said to be John Peel's favourite Faust track) to coincide with this DVD release (see separate review here).

So to the Faust film (if you're doing the old linear viewing thing) of 6 tracks - Shiva, Beat That, Dschungelbar, Don't Look Back, Feurzeuge, Aggro - which build, fall apart, drone, clang, clatter, buzz; rhythm and noise jar and join together; it's intense and playful, ugly and beautiful. Ask current Faust member Steve Lobdell what Faust is and he says "Faust is more about ideas than music, more about process than songs". Ask me to recall what each track sounds like and I'd struggle: I have to go back and listen again, enjoying the moment. Like the unfussy camera work which captures it all; metal pipes being picked up and dropped, squeaky bird toys being squeezed rhythmically...and now I know where some of these sounds come from. Mad fun. And at the end Irmler smirks to the camera, "That was too loud, like beginners." The rejuvenating power of music...

The Klangbad festival started small and is growing but still needs support. If you are interested in finding out more about the festival, or about Klangbad and its artists and recordings, including Faust, follow the links below.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Penny Black Music reviews Klangbad/Faust DVD

DVD-Klangbad/Faust : Avant-Garde in the Meadows/Live at Klangbad Festival 
Author: Dominic B. Simpson
Published: 06/09/2010

Who are the real Faust? That’s one of the conundrums that this DVD brings to mind when referencing the legendary Krautrock outfit. Is it the outfit currently spearheaded by original members Jean-Hervé Péron and Werner "Zappi" Diermaier, who have bedazzled audiences with their overloaded jazz-rock freakout and abuse of industrial machinery? Or is it the amorphous, freeform outfit that features another original member in the shape of Hans Joachim Irmler on keyboards joined by American guitarist Steven W Lobdell and several others? An answer of sorts comes from the band(s) Wikipedia page, who claim that “Faust now exists in two completely different incarnations, both active and each reflecting different aspects of the original group.” Exactly how they deal with royalty and copyright issues is unclear.

The Péron/Diermaier guise of Faust performed one of the most extraordinary gigs this writer had the privilege to see, in a venue somewhere tucked inside the railway arches of London’s Elephant amd Castle. After terrorising/thrilling the audience with sparks flying from the various sandpaper machines and other industrial detritus onstage, the band then proceeded to go the whole hog and walk around the venue with chainsaws – real ones – and culminated in setting off several coloured smoke bombs while dressed in bomb technician gear, which filled the entire venue with blue and red haze. Stumbling around looking for the exit, a ring of fire visible on the floor and an excruciatingly loud looped guitar riff emanating from the empty stage, yours truly was confronted by Péron – still carrying a chainsaw – who instructed “You must leave the venue now!” As everyone huddled outside the venue, smoke billowing from the doors and a police siren visible in the distance, the sound of the band getting back onstage and jamming to an empty audience could be heard.

Sadly there’s nothing quite as mind-boggling as that event on this DVD (though there is plenty of smoke onstage throughout); in fact, Péron and Diermaier and the other members of that axis of Faust don’t appear at all.

Instead, this DVD is a document of Klangbad, the annual festival in rural Germany curated by Hans-Joachim Irmler, and thus focuses on the ‘other’ version of Faust which comprises Irmler, Lobdell, Michael Stoll on bass and flute, Lars Paukstat on percussion and voice, Arnulf Meifert also on percussion, and Ralf Meinz on drums and ‘efx’.

As it turns out, Klangbad is the kind of festival that feels increasingly important in an age of media saturation and the corporatisation of large festivals (with Reading/Leeds one big hymn to Carling beer nowadays). As the German newspaper 'De Zeit' is quoted lovingly in the DVD sleeve notes in an article which they wrote on the festival, “strolling the festival venue, one might sense the attitude of mind Krautrock still stands for: no bouncers, no stupid marketing games, no bungee jumping. The calm atmosphere at the Klangbad Festival almost could be seen as something political. Here everything seems possible.” Which definitely couldn’t be applied to the V Festival. But then, in fairness, there are equivalents to Klangbad in Britain: the consistently impressive Green Man festival; the likes of End of the Road, Indietracks, Truck, even Fairport Convention’s Cropredy; and, of course All Tomorrow’s Parties, among others.

As the DVD confirms, just as with these festivals, Klangbad also gives space to otherwise marginalized or ‘left-field’ music, some of which is just as good as Faust’s headlining performance, which the second part of the DVD focuses on.

Finnish psych-rockers Circle, in particular, are captured building up a mesmerising trance-like groove with the track ‘Matka’, the effect only slightly spoilt by the sight of singer Mika Rättö’s bizarre leather bondage and quasi Nazi-hat outfit. The Kammerflimmer Kollektief and Britain’s very own The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden (featuring the ubiquitous Padden from Volcano The Bear), meanwhile, provide compelling organic instrumental relief during the daytime, with the latter cracking jokes about the rain and how back in Scotland the equivalent would be a summer’s day.

Elsewhere, Faust member Paukstat gets down and dirty fronting the straightforward blues-rock outfit Cpt. Howdy; all-female ‘audio-art’ collective Nista Nije Nista (“Nothing Is Not Nothing”) perform what appears to be some Dada-like sketches over cracking laptop noise, broken sewing machines, air pumps, and clarinets; and Minit and Jutta Koether perform skewered electronic pop and spoken word viginettes over repetitive keyboard notes, respectively. Finally, a solo performance by Lobdell is another highlight, beginning with a looping of Tibetan bells before unleashing a devastating effects-filled guitar assault that brings to mind Ash Ra Tempel at their most mind-expanding.

After such an absorbing and varied first half, the second part of the DVD can’t help but feel slightly like an anti-climax, with its focus on only one act. Only slightly, though: this incarnation of Faust is even more out-there and experimental than the Péron and Diermaier axis, despite the worrying predilection for ponytails, fretless six-string bass, and somewhat extensive guitar wankery from a be-shaded Lobdell (not necessarily a bad thing in itself).

Beginning with entrancing flute and sitar drones, the hour-plus set is nothing if not versatile, with six long songs in total performed, ranging from Acid Mothers Temple-style freakout to some unexpectedly beautiful synth strings and glockenspiel on ‘Feuerzeuge’. An excerpt of one song, ‘Don’t Look Back’, also features on the first part of the DVD, with Paukstat’s repeated mantra “turn back/and look around” a rallying cry for the festival’s idiosyncratic nature as a whole.

With the DVD sleeve notes mentioning, “since this alternative music festival is constantly lacking financial support, Playloud! [the DVD production company] will donate 1 Euro of each DVD sold to the Klangbad Festival Organisation”, it looks as if there’s no guarantee the festival will continue on its trajectory. Judging from the evidence on this DVD, hopefully long may Klangbad – and many similar of its ilk – continue to survive while the corporate fests continue to increasingly embrace crass commercialisation.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mojo Magazine October 2010 / 203 reviews Klangbad/Faust DVD:

2005 avant-fest doc, plus live Krautrock brain-drilling.

An annual outdoor festival in the German town of Scheer, Klangbad is for those who like their sounds underground. Dietmar Post and Lucia Palacios' film reveals its 2005 incarnation as an orderly place full of disorderly music. It's a close-up, unglamourised affair - it shows no-one watching Sydney synth oddballs Minit - and those who are on-stage invariably turn up as spectators later. For a five-year-old film there's still much that sounds fresh, such as Portland guitarist Steve Lobdell's crunchy sheets of noise, Finnish rock diabolists Circle and the splendidly annoying Nista Nije Nista, who mix clarinet and declaiming, and have a food mixer and pedal bin on-stage. The second feature is 70 minutes of the Hans Joachim Irmler-led Faust playing slow building, percussive obliquenesses to stage projections of revolving Vertigo swirls. On the ambient-to-rocking Feuerzeuge, this can manifest sublimely, and if it means living hell for fans of conventional pop, that's surely part of the appeal. (Ian Harrison)


The film comes in conjunction with the 7" single FAUST: so far / it's a bit of pain. First re-issue since 1972. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Next Big Thing reviews Klangbad/Faust DVD

30+ years in the rock'n'roll ring...

Those groovy play loud! people are at it again. Having put The Monks on the map, their film-making exploits this time take in the Klangbad festival and also an extended Faust set.

Faust was one of the first German bands I ever encountered. Working in the local record store, everyone was fascinated by the clear vinyl in a clear sleeve with a hand x-ray visible through it. The music on it was way ahead of the curve to the point of being virtually scary. An odd kind of ambient that required an altered mindset to really get into. Or so it seemed. I can’t claim to be sophisticated now but way back then this was really exotic. Maybe it wasn’t even music, it sounded like notes from outer space. When Virgin launched their record label, they released The Faust Tapes, an album for the price of a single – 49p I think it was.

Orbit, the shop I worked in did it for 43p if I recall correctly. Anyway, we sold bings of them to people of all ages. Strangely no-one returned them thinking they were faulty because the sonic content might not be what they were used to. Not even the old ladies that normally bought Charley Pride records. Or Sydney Devine.

This latest play loud! release contains two films,“klangbad, avant garde in the meadows” and“faust – live at klangbad festival”. The first on chronicles the 2005 event and provides a first hand account of something far, far from what a “festival” has become. “No bouncers, no stupid marketing games, no bungee jumping” like the liner notes determine. The line up is similarly out there with the pastoral setting providing to a background to acts, most of which I had no idea existed. A little like an idyllicly set version of the“le weekend” in Stirling.

When I contacted Dietmar to tell him that Faust would be coming to Scotland this fall, he asked me “which Faust?”. He told me that “there is one with JP Hervon (Faust North) and the other one around HJ Irmler (Faust South). It just proves that Faust is more an idea than songs and/or a band.” This isn't one of those cases like The Drifters, I hasten to add. Not even opposite sides despite the geography of the same coin.

When I sent him the link, he confirmed that the band that will play Stirling on October 17th is Faust (North) not the one that can be seen in these films. It would seem that performances of their southern manifestation are much more rare, making it essential that you grab this document.

While not exactly a walk in the park despite the setting, the world of this concept is definitely an attractive one if you just let the sound wash around you. Dietmar Post and Lucia Palacioshave put together another fine project, taking the blueprint of direct cinema and skewing it slightly to create a study of what would otherwise take place completely removed from the pulsebeat. They also issued the band’s first single but more about that when I manage to get around to reviewing some records.