Originally conceived by record producer Uwe Nettelbeck in the early 70s as krautrock’s original boy band for Polydor, today’s faUSt differs wildly to the grammatically-consistent Faust of yore. Having since shaved off a majority of its members after a long hiatus, Jean-Hervé Péron and Werner “Zappi” Diermaier have garnered considerable praise during their post-heyday heyday for their increasingly brazen racket, falling somewhere between dark ambient, outsider music and all-out free improvisation.
Péron kicks off tonight’s set at Òran Mór – and true to anarchic form, it isn’t by striking an inaugural bass chord. Instead, he reads off a thank you list for the people “who never get applause”. The sound and lighting people get a thank you, as does someone named Vivienne from the upstairs bar, and someone who couldn’t be here tonight because he’s ill in hospital. It would be a curious way to begin a rock show for any other group, but something about this gracious opener feels properly faUStian. More than anything else, faUSt make it part of their ethos to have everyone in the room and beyond feel like participants in their communal project. At the very least, this is adequate preparation for how much fun faUSt are about to have.
Musically, faUSt linger on the side of imperfection and improvisation, which isn’t to say that there aren’t any distinguishable “songs” from their discography on the set list. Tonight’s rendition of Kundalini Tremolos sounds unrelated to the recorded version on 2009’s C’est Com… Com… Complique, the former sounding more like a mystic incantation than a far-reaching wave of psychical distortion. It’s tempting to think of faUSt as one of the great psychedelic rock groups, if they weren’t also masters of interrupting their own flow. The group build themselves walls of droned phrases, but we in the room are continually deferred from complete hypnosis by a wayward pedal press. Just as the group get a nice bowed guitar bit going, a sharp yelp cuts through the ambient noise with the force of a freight train, bringing to mind the aural mischief of erstwhile collaborator Nurse With Wound.
It goes without saying that the performance is frequently messy. The high ends are too high, the low too low; long sections of noise seem to meander down cosmic wormholes and songs end without it being clear just how faUSt got there. After the tongue in cheek Krautrock, the hulking figure of Zappi stands up behind the kit and stretches his arms out like he’s doing a mindfulness exercise, and Péron “plays” a buzz saw to an audio dialogue and guitarist Amaury Cambuzat’s freewheeling mellotron (clearly their beloved cement mixer couldn’t make it past customs). If Kraftwerk represent (or indeed fetishise) scrupulous machinery and ruthless organisation, faUSt perhaps make into music the chaos and violence inflicted by industry.
As if to show that faUSt could be a conventional psychedelic group if they wanted to be, they close their set with the epic story-song Fish from 2017’s Fresh Air. Nevertheless, if tonight’s show proves anything, it’s that these self-proclaimed “krautrockers” – now over 45 years as a group – are still a threat to rock music. They’re disgraceful, long-winded and infuriating; they’re also radical, fearless and progressive. Surely we need them now more than ever.
faUSt will appear alongside James Yorkston on Thurs 29 Nov in The Dissection Room, Edinburgh, as part of Nothing Ever Happens Here.