Faust, Just Us
I think Faust is one of the most important bands of the 20th century—progressive but not indulgent, virtuosic yet still basic and earthy, experimental yet accessible, unpredictable yet trustworthy.
I was turned on to them in the late ‘70s when I asked the great avant-garde percussionist Chris Cutler, after an Art Bears concert in a chemistry lecture hall at Tufts University, what I should be listening. He wrote “Faust” and an address in Germany on a slip of paper and handed it to me. I found Faust So Far first (in the stacks at the college radio station) and never looked back.
Faust’s main moment was a brilliant four-album salvo in the early ‘70s, but they resurfaced 20 years later. They later splintered into two separate Fausts, both with founding members. One of these Fausts, led by Werner Diermaier and Jean-Herve Peron, has been rather prolific; the other, led by Hans Joachim Irmler, not so much. I’d say I prefer the Irmler variant, whose album Faust is Last is up there with the original band’s best work. But the Diermaier/Peron Faust has done seven decent albums to Irmler’s one great one, and has toured extensively. So they’re the ones really keeping the Faust flame alive.
And Just Us (spelled on the album cover thus: “j US t”) has the high concept, sheer bravado and clammering, clanging candor of vintage Faust. The album comes with a thesis. According to the official description of the record, “Founder members Jean-Hervé Peron and Zappi Diermaier have laid down twelve musical foundations, inviting the whole world to use them as a base on which to build their own music. The tracks presented by Peron and Diermaier are clearly, intrinsically typical of Faust in their own right, yet offer enough space for completely different works to develop. Which is exactly what they hope will happen.”
Yes, you could certainly sample these tracks, many of which are made up of repetitive beats, chords and machine noises. Or you could be suspicious of that come-on, as some critics have been. Personally, I’ve been too worshipful of Faust for too long to consider that I could have anything of substance to add to their music. I find the simplicity of Just Us ideal for breaking up all the melodic pop on my iPhone playlist. These are ear-opening pulses of neo-Futurist noodling, amalgams of quivering humanity and invasive industrial effects. I find it dark and compelling and imaginative and rhythmic and dreamy and evocative. It may be a lightweight effort for the oft-denser Faust. It may be like a great painter showing you their palette and asking you to consider it as conceptual art. But, hell, it’s got a good beat and I don’t dance and I like it.