Picture yourself touring a steel plant in full force. Machines are grinding, sparks are flying and metal is clanging as it pounds against metal in rhythmic intervals. Yet, there seems to be a cadence to all of the commotion—an aural flow is definitely distinct and, in a way, even appealing.
This, in one of many nutshells, is the sound of Faust. One of Germany’s pioneering Krautrock artists (Can, Kraftwerk and Amon Duul among the others), they enter yet another decade with the release of Something Dirty, a melange of industrial rhythms, barely-present melodies (in the cases where melodies exist at all), spacey guitar waves and robotic drum beats.
This has been their sound from the get-go. Ever since 1971’s self-titled debut, Faust has been a leader in producing fragmented collages of synth and guitar pastiches, deep bass kicks, and wispy musical stripes of greyish sound washes.
Somehow, Faust makes this all work, and Something Dirty is no exception. The album presents 13 tracks that vary widely, yet which combine to sew together one hearty quilt of messy but pleasing experimental rock. There are no conceptual themes to ponder, here—no toe-tapping dance grooves (a la New Order) and no cheery choruses or hooky beats. Just some weird, yet admirable musical landscapes to venture into.
Album opener “Tell The Bitch To Go” starts things off with a hard, raunchy and corrosive feel, with a truly bold industrial undertone that’s steely, cold, and—if sound had color—silvery. This is a great track to kick off the album since it prepares and then transports the listener into the uncanny realm of Faust’s music.
Title cut “Something Dirty” is equally pleasing. Comprised of grinding textures that somehow create tones and rhythms in all of their dissonance, this is a track that is unfeeling, urban, and distant, with no distinct destination for the listener, and none really needed. Elsewhere, “Thoughts Of The Dead” keeps with the bizarreness, as we hear faint whispers and vocal meanderings swaying atop of a mechanical breeze, all intertwined in an atmosphere of unidentifiable sound effects.
Eerie and other-worldly, this is the one of the band’s signature shticks. Thankfully, Faust sounds fresh and not backdated throughout all of its brash industrial gymnastics. There’s an appealing current winding through this and other tracks on the album, proving that the band can still produce effective music without sounding pretentious, stale and overly unorthodox.
“Invisible Mending” has singer Geraldine Swayne’s vocals lending a humanistic hypnotism to a stream of guitar and faint, atonal mixtures. Simple but interesting, the song nestles well within the ambience of the album, but may test the patience of music lovers who are discovering this style for the first time. In contrast, “Pythagoras” is as brash as they come, full of unrelenting beats, fuzzed guitar lines, start-and-stop pounding and feedback teetering. It too, however, is a patience-tester that makes the ears say “whew” when it wraps up suddenly.
The album closes with “La Sole Doree,” a spacey, echoed trip of distant vocals, chilling the back tempo in sporadic splurges and eventually building in pace and harshness until the song’s abrupt finale.
As a whole, Something Dirty is a carryover of Faust’s sound from the beginning, yet the songs seem to create a newness in their complexity that gives each creation a fascinating allure. Don’t think of this as a streamlined lineage of related musical motifs, but as a conglomeration of different moods—some hard, some cold, some puzzling, some dreamy and some bewildering.
And all—somehow—converging fluidly in the same provocative and complex musical universe.