Faust: Just Us

Inspired return of the experimental 70s legends.

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Tracing the lineage of Faust can be a damn tricky business.

Since the original band split up in the mid‑70s, Germany’s great avant-stylists have gone through so many different permutations that there are now two bands laying claim to the name. Hans Joachim Irmler’s Faust were last heard of in 2010. Meanwhile, fellow founders Jean-Hervé Peron and Werner ‘Zappi’ Diermaier have been at it for the best part of a decade.

Peron and Diermaier constitute the more prolific iteration of Faust. And, it can be argued, the more adventurous. The follow-up to 2011’s Something Dirty arrives with an intriguing premise: instead of giving us ‘completed’ music, why not offer up a dozen foundations for others to build on? Granted, this might at first seem like Dada gone gaga. But what actually emerges on Just Us is a riveting set of instrumentals that leave space between the bones while also providing enough meat to stand up on their own.

It begins with Gerubelt, a fairly conventional piece with a relentlessly plodding bass and some bolshy guitar. This only serves to make the contrast with 80hz, the album’s first real experiment in texture. It’s certainly more extreme – cue fireballs of industrial noise, some stray bits of violin, a little ambience and what sounds like pockets of change being emptied on to a baking tray. By the time it segues into Sur Le Ventre, someone seems to be smacking a hammer against an anvil while Peron adds French commentary over the top. And if Nahmaschine appears to fade out to the busy hum of a sewing machine, that’s because it really does (check out the title translation).

If all this gives the impression that Just Us is unlistenable, think again. Both Cavaquinho and Gammes are discreet compositions marked by webs of acoustic guitar and quietly rattling percussion. Faust have sometimes been accused of being too cerebral for their own good. The unexpected boon here is that these are visceral pieces that rough you up around the gut. This isn’t merely ‘difficult’ music for the sake of it. Nur Nous and Palpitations, the latter rippling with strange electronica, sudden slaps of noise and ominous moods, feel like scenarios for some imminent apocalypse.

They’re also clearly having fun. On Ich Bin Ein Pavian, Diermaier yelps out the song title over rumbling tribal beats (in English: I Am A Baboon). At other times, self-proclaimed ‘Art-Errorist’ Peron appears to be either sawing a groove into a hunk of timber or doing weird things to a piano.

Highly rhythmic and fabulously inventive, Just Us proves there’s no substitute for a great imagination.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.