By NEIL STRAUSS,
Published: May 3, 1994
Dinosaur rock bands like the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and Traffic may be on tour this summer, but so are some of their lesser-known contemporaries. And they have sledgehammers.
"Don't retire" were the first words Jean-Herve Peron sang tonight when the 25-year-old German band Faust performed at Real Art Ways here. Then Mr. Peron, who is in his mid-40's, smashed a few television sets.
Faust is generally credited as the first band to perform the industrial music made popular by noisemakers like Nine Inch Nails and Ministry. It is also among the first groups to create electronic rock music in a recording studio with no intention of performing it live. Even in its heyday in the early 1970's, Faust didn't tour much. Until this year, it had never performed in the United States.
Tonight the group (which included two original members, Werner Diermaier and the French-born Mr. Peron) extended a little sympathy to the audience. During a rainstorm that delayed the outdoor concert by two hours, it performed "It's a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl" as a kind of warm-up, beating rhythmically on large pieces of scrap metal as Mr. Peron sang.
During its actual performance, Faust wasn't always so noisy. A duet between a jackhammer and a chain saw faded into a gentle acoustic guitar solo; French and German poetry preceded brutal feedback attacks. Faust espoused a violent back-to-nature agenda that wasn't out of date, although it did seem silly when Mr. Peron held a goldfish bowl and instructed the audience to "listen to the fish."
Whereas tonight's performance was a collage of song ideas and performance art, Faust's concert on Thursday night at the Knitting Factory in Manhattan consisted of a single musical idea. The group collaborated for the first time in 22 years with the violinist Tony Conrad on a 45-minute violin-and-percussion drone that is featured on its record "Outside the Dream Syndicate," recently reissued by Table of the Elements.
Mr. Conrad stood silhouetted behind a white sheet, slowly bowing a violin with a bridge that was flattened to produce a constant, harmonically rich drone. Mr. Peron stroked a double-necked guitar while Mr. Diermaier maintained a hypnotic drumbeat. Like the music of other progressive German groups of the same era, the song seemed endless but never boring. Infrequent chord changes and subtle rhythmic nuances pushed the piece along slowly and rapturously.
At both performances, Faust was preceded by Heino Keiji, a Japanese guitarist, and Gate, a guitar duo consisting of Michael Morley, from New Zealand, and Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth. Gate created a wall of impersonal feedback; Mr. Keiji played the guitar so quickly and adeptly that it sounded as if six musicians were playing separate and distinct parts.
On the bill tonight only, the guitarist and singer for Sonic Youth, Thurston Moore, performed new songs with the Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelly and Tim Fuljohn, a guitarist. As Mr. Moore read sarcastic lyrics from large pieces of cardboard, the trio played underdeveloped but promising songs constructed of basic rock riffs and atmospheric guitar noises.
Well, it turns out that the NY Times journalist wasn't the only one underwhelmed by the T. Moore set; Glenn Jones from Cul de Sac told an Italian mag (I don't have a date or title of the mag, but this was on the Cul de Sac page) this:
I enjoyed myself very much. It was an outdoor show, and consisted mostly of waiting around in the rain for several hours while Faust made last minute repairs to the stage. Due to this delay we only got to play an abbreviated set. Keiji Haino followed with his assault on the eardrums; Gate (with Lee Renaldo) I thought were more interesting, playing with varying levels of noise and sound textures in a thoughtful manner. The Thurston Moore Band, with guitarist Tim Foljahn and Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley, was perplexing. (I remember these lyrics: "Kick out the jacks, and I'll buy the snacks. . . .Superchrist!" Is he trying to sound Japanese?) But, what the hell -- the kids seemed to like it.
"Perplexing"? Hmph. That perplexing project became Psychic Hearts, one of my favorite records of all time, a record that is for this kid as inspiring today as the first day I heard it back then. After watching the video, I grabbed Psychic Hearts off the shelf and pulled out the Elegy for All the Dead Rock Stars 12 inch. I moved over to the window so I could get the sunlight to catch the Rita Ackermann etching on the B side. I never even ended up putting Psychic Hearts on. It was good enough just standing there by the window puzzling over the perplexing etching.