This double disc is supposedly Faust’s last. Presumably, that means it’s the final album featuring the Faust led by original keyboardist Hans Joachim Irmler, the band on display on Faust is Last. The fragmentation of the original Faust into two working entities is a sad bit of history that won’t be rehearsed in this context (click here instead), but it means that both Fausts exhibit characteristics of the original group. Irmler’s Faust’s strength lies in the manipulation of “abstract” sonic detail; their last studio album, 1999’s Ravivando, was a firestorm of dense and blazing riffage topped with transparent keyboard swirl. Last pushes further at similar timbral borders with often satisfying results.
The first disc is a well-programmed and mostly seamless series of brief excursions, beginning with the eerily droning “Brumm und Blech.” As with most Faust material, individual identities are purposely merged, but Irmler’s keyboards and Lars Paukstat’s tinkling percussion encircle a mélange of less distinct sounds. The disc concludes with the gospel-tinged “Day Out,” sung by Paukstat in the bare-bones piano and organ-drenched soulful manner of later Talk Talk. Contrast these transparent intricacies with the blindingly loud static 30 seconds of “Cluster Fur Cluster” to get an idea of the album’s extremes. Inhabiting a middle ground are groove-laden tracks like “Feed the Greed,” its deep resonances and tiny utterances placed in stark relief by Jan Fride’s heavily distorted drumming.
The second disc’s pieces are longer, each a world unto itself. Of particular note are guitarist Lobdell’s contributions. His haunting atmospherics and blistering solos bring new life to any situation, as he blends 1960s garage distortion with layers of more contemporary noise. On the gorgeously drifting “SofTone,” the sharp purity of his solo is enveloped by foggy clouds and rippling sheets of feedback. He complements Irmler’s unique keyboard work to create a hazy sheen that’s both warm and somehow distant.
Missing from the dense brew is a sense of the unpredictable. It was an integral part of the band’s 1970s output, and it has been retained by the other Faust under original bassist Jean Herve Peron. That aggregate moves from mind-bending drone and scree to the most delicate song structures with ease — and a sense of fun. Irmler’s Faust seems to have forgotten that laughter is part of its legacy, that laughter can be as much a part of subversion as destruction. As fascinating as Last may be, a sense of sameness makes this final effort a bit less successful than it might have been.