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Faust – Schiphorst 2008

Salamander

Schiphorst 2008The Schiphorst 2008 CD is a live album, recorded at the festival held quite literally in the rural backyard of founder member Jean-Hervé Péron, and is as ramshackle as you like. The tone is set by the packaging, which successfully conveys a flavour of the event – the front cover photo depicts a microphone struggling for visibility amid dense clouds of stage smoke, and elsewhere in the case and inserts we get to see one of Faust’s customised old cement mixers standing in a state of magnificent decay in the farmyard, the festival’s ticket office (a brightly painted wooden shack), and a large female pig named Lilli-Sau munching hay in her enclosure. Having perused all this, it’s no great surprise to find that the band’s performance in this setting was raw and unvarnished, even by Faust standards.

Not many live albums include the soundcheck, but that’s what makes up Track 1 here: a few minutes of improvised nonsense-singing that, like much of what follows, is surprisingly effective. Fewer still include a recording of fireworks being set off as part of a serenade and salute to a pet pig, but that is what “Firework Lovesong For Lilli-Sau” seems to be. The results could probably pass as a field recording of a sound installation by Z’ev– rattling sweeps of noise punctuated by percussive explosions. And that’s Track 2. After all this it comes as something of a surprise when the band (a different line-up to the studio album: no Amaury Cambuzat, instead Péron and Zappi Diermaier are joined by a new crew of collaborators, including Gallon Drunk guitarist James Johnston) actually start playing, but when they do they set up a great clanking, grinding groove – to call it ‘loose’ would be an understatement, and then some, but there is always just enough focus, and, it seems, enough of a shared understanding between the band members, to sustain a sense of purpose and vitality. It is raw to the point of bloody, and patchy in quality, but there are plenty of flashes of a jagged and unmistakably Faustian beauty amid the clamour and clatter.

The grinding, churning jams reach a peak on the second disc, where the band put a few golden oldies through the cement mixer. If you can imagine the Birthday Party covering Amon Düül, you wouldn’t be a million miles away from some of this. That said, there’s a remarkable moment where the band suddenly break into a formulaic blues progression – in this context this switch sounds so unexpected that it could be one of the famous disorientating juxtapositions from The Faust Tapes. By the time we get to “Giggy Smile” and a propulsive, compulsive “Krautrock” the band are sizzling. But the most interesting piece is the final one, listed as being by Nurse With Wound (manifesting here as Steve Stapleton, Colin Potter, Matt Waldron, Andrew Liles, and Timo van Luijk) with Peron guesting on vocals. This assembly busk their way through a compelling, electro-minimalist take on Jacques Berrocal’s “Rock’n’Roll Station”, previously Nursified on the NWW album of the same name, but here recast in a far more anarchic rendition, that ends, memorably, with Stapleton (who is on lead vocals for what might be the first time ever in his recorded output) howling “I’m listening to a rock’n’roll station, and I’m bored… bored… I’M BORED” – it’s a great moment as the sentiments expressed undoubtedly capture some of the restless drive for new musical horizons that is the hallmark of both of these great bands.

-Manfred Scholido-

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