Sometimes, the oddest part of driving long distances is that sense of trance it lulls you into. You’ve seen hundreds of cornfields, hills, prairies, and desert plains, so much so, that you lose track of distance and time. Usually, what takes us out of this stasis is a well-placed jolt, or in my case, just music that demands active, engaged listening. Faust’s following songs from their Faust IV album: “Krautrock”, the driver of the day, and “Jennifer”, the contemplative song of the day, use a very intensely driven sound…the sound of musical drone, to either take you into some earthly humming trance or a spiritual, loving hosanna but to do so, you really must listen. Driving songs, when distilled to their very essence, as they are here, can certainly move you places, let’s see where they move you.
“Krautrock” the song itself, is made up of so few components, and as many changes in mood and melody, but what makes it so seminal? It is a track that truly taps into who Faust was. Before this album they had tried to sell their unique proto-industrial sound by using gimmicks like selling their first album for the same price as a English pence (and in a unique see-through record platter), then they released a record with no song titles, simply filled with various snippets of songs hinting at their work process. What you saw throughout this brief history is a band investigating exactly how to make their mark in a world where they were increasingly viewed as musical oddballs.
For Faust IV, they decided to return to recognizable song structures, which makes the cover artwork seem so ironic, or a bit of an insider joke. This track just radiates with melody, so much so that its oscillating texture becomes the melody. For the duration of the twelve minute track a keen listener can catch the distorted synthesizer and guitar bleed change markedly in tempo and tone, its those changes that make you forget that there’s no drum track really driving this rhythm until it comes in around the seven minute mark. That mark, knocks you out of the trance like the Allied forces storming Normandy, and the track goes off running as it lands into its finality. Its a track that uses all the critical knocks given to German music of the time, that its aimless, tuneless, unmelodic, faceless, and derivative, as a way to flip the script on such critiques. They say, ok here’s a track with all of these facets, but can you deny its brilliance? Man, I sure can’t, it just drills into you something no other type of music could then (and for a long time thereafter).
Then “Jennifer” their beautiful ambient love song, a song with only two verses dedicated to a red-haired beauty, uses the same drilling technique to portray the entrancement some kind of joy brings to even the most of abrasive of musicians. Starting out with a throbbing heartbeat-mimicking bass line, you hear a distant acoustic guitar slowly fade in as someone from Faust starts to repeat his love dizzy lyrics. Then a light drone synthesizer sends little rays of energy to prevent the track from completely lying down in the pasture. Little by little, as the drone builds in volume, that entranced love song keeps going through detectable changes. A piano interjection here and there to highlight specific parts of a lyric and strings sling back and forth with it to keep the love playful.
However, Faust being Faust, they find a way to make sure you remember that drone is always going to be around and was a driving force of this whole track from the get go. Little by little, the drone gets wider until it consumes the whole track as it was wont to do. However, by then how can you forget that great loving mantra sung by Faust? it was quite simple but now that its done you wish there was more of it. You gotta admire them for knowing how to keep you guessing where they can go with that sound next, even though the clues were there all along. I’ll keep driving this point ahead tomorrow…
Bonus track time, here’s a cool excerpt of vintage Faust improvising for a German krautrock documentary: