Faust IV

This is the sound of the other Deutschland. This is Krautrock at its most alien and electro-maniacal. Bright globs and gibbering squirts of stellar sound-plasm, chimes from the sublime reaches of outer space, the grandeur and clear-minded trance of Germans who’ve broken free from history’s gravitational pull. This is Vier, the greatest album by Faust.

While Americans and Brits worshipped at the altars of guitar gods, in Germany, Faust was creating its heretic sound. Synthesizers laid out washes of cold aural slime. A buzzing organ moaned, soft and black and slippery as powdered graphite. Drums, tambourine and vacuum tube bleeps joined in a rackety rhythm. Chang-chord fuzz, shouts of a cretin, a girl muttering in Swedish, xylophones, a Teutonic Donovan crooning over muffled wobble-bass and arpeggio guitar, spells gibbered down a tinfoil-covered toilet paper tube, a long elegant sax solo, hurdy-gurdy bowed strings, rattling gear-click pulse, a keyboard ditty that stops dead on an echo and a voice from the studio talks to the void. What makes this kraut? What makes this rock?

The term “Krautrock” is idiotic, an artifact of Britain’s obsession with Germany as Nazi-land. Like so many labels for revolutionary phenomena, this one was created by its enemies. Would a term like Frog-rock have flourished if the French had produced a mutant crop of brilliantly messy, obscure and bizarre albums in the space of ten years? Calling this sound Krautrock is like calling funk “Chitlin music.” (Funk is ultimately of the lower body, the bowels, and chitlins are the bowels.) Or more to the point, it’s like labeling some of the greatest films of the 1960s “Spaghetti Westerns,” as though all a culture has to offer can be summed up by its most basic food.

But there it is: Krautrock. And given that Faust chose to play with the term, claiming it and naming the first track on their greatest album with this nazoid neologism, we use it here. Krautrock: ironic, iconic, blunt as a hammer blow that misses its mark but hits elsewhere and sets the whole world ringing like a gong.

The name of the band is also a complexity. Faust is both the medieval magic-man who makes a deal with the devil for infinite knowledge and it is “fist,” stark and brutish. Panzerfaust is both the mailed fist of the medieval knight and the handheld rocket launcher used to punch holes in the armor of American, British and Soviet tanks as they ground their way into the heart of Germany.

History is supposedly written by the winners. Here, we offer an alternative: the occult history (the hidden, lost, secret story) of the year when it all began. America had won the war and Germany had lost. American Apollo went to the moon in German-built rockets. The Germans stayed back. After seven years of war, they knew what the barren, blasted lunar surface looked like. They already lived on the moon. American music came with the armies and triumphed too. By the early ‘70s, the conquest was almost complete. But a small group of Germans - a kind of esoteric resistance movement - fought back, not with guns and bombs, but brains and synthesizers.

Faust IV is the true V-2 rocket, though it didn’t really go anywhere, at least not through euclidean space. Faust IV is the vengeance weapon out of Deutschland, blasting through the stellar void, secretly reentering the atmosphere and hitting its numinous target. Those who stand victorious claim the right to decide truth and falsehood. Here, we offer the other, the inner, story. We are the celebrants of the dismissed, forgotten, despised soundscape of that miraculous and mysterious post-lunar year - 1973.

What happened then? What happened here? Everything.