I was going to hold off reviewing this until my pre-ordered copy arrived but here in America the release date is a month later than in Europe [update: now two months later], then there’s supply chain delays and a neutered post office and the lovely crew at Mutante sent me high resolution digital files to tide me over so, fuck it, let’s do it seen as how everyone else already has.
Now, all those other reviews read to me like potted histories of Faust, which is understandable. It’s a wild, salacious and fascinating tale but forgive me for bypassing that for, dear reader, I am assuming that if you are here, you know Faust. You know the story, you’re probably most likely wondering “I already have the Wumme Years box\the albums on vinyl, do I need to buy this too?“
Well, spoiler alert, I’m afraid the answer is “yes” and I’ll tell you why. Amaury Cambuzat (who was actually in Faust the first time I saw them live in 2005) has gone back to the original masters and not just created new masters but actually new mixes from them. So we’re not just talking a little bit of a clean up, it’s a whole new version with vastly improved clarity and separation. Over the years I’ve played that old Wumme box and my dusty old vinyl copy of “IV” so much the music was implanted in my brain so its very disorientating to listen to these beloved songs and notice brand new details.
The guitar rowdiness on “No Harm”, the electronic fuzz on “Why Don’t You Eat Carrots?” and the bassline on “Krautrock” are all now so much more pronounced and vivid. They leap out at you. One question I’ve seen vinyl heads asking is whether or not this is a digital or analogue mix. So, once I get my vinyl box set, I’ll make a video comparing the wav file with the vinyl for the same track so you can get a feel for it.
It’s weird, one fellow scribe told me their editor won’t let them talk at all about mastering or mixing but they are skilled trades and important to how your music sounds. These albums have never sounded this good before (not that RER didn’t do an amazing job with remastering, but these new mixes are major upgrades).
However, there’s more to it than those beloved albums. There’s another three albums of (mostly) unreleased stuff. “Punkt” is the lost fifth album and rather a complete beast. It would be disingenious to suggest it hits the same heights as its predecessors as after all, the band did get arrested over unpaid studio bills before it was finished. None the less, only a little bit of it was released on the RER out-take compilations and in very different versions. You do need this.
Then we have two further albums chopped together “Faust Tapes” style from the archives, “Momentaufnahme 1” and “Momentaufnahme 2”. So, these aren’t the albums you’d bust out to try and convert someone to Faust but how could you say no to two more collections of unreleased goodies from the golden age? There are loads of lovely little moments there. including some surprises digressions into out and out cosmic synth, little folk jams and plenty of weird. It’s a fans delight and shines a lot of new light on Faust. I think I knew maybe one track from somewhere, the rest was definitely completely unheard and unreleased.
Then you got the two 7″ singles (compiled on one CD for the CD box) just to make it extra. It’s a staggering collection and it helps enormously that Bureau B charge way less than most labels do for box sets. They clearly want this in the hands of the fans, not the scalpers. Faust are such a wonderful, important band who’ve played a massive part in my enjoyment of life these last two decades and this is the box set they deserved. A tremendous achievement.