Just Us

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Though absolutely foundational in Krautrock circles (even arguably responsible for naming the genre with a song of the same name on their 1973 album Faust IV), Hamburg collective Faust always existed on the fringes of even Krautrock's genre-defying experimentalism. While contemporaries like Can, Amon Düül II, and Ash Ra Tempel were pushing outward expansively within the confines of what a rock band was capable of, Faust's radical manipulation of editing, production, and studio trickery combined with their "anything goes" compositional approach resulted in some of the genre's most vibrantly diverse albums and set them in a class of their own. Over 40 years later, the madcap spirit that defined the band's earliest groundbreaking material is alive and well on 2014 album jUSt, aka Just Us. The album isn't quite the Dadaist collage of earlier works, but somehow captures the same messy spirit of those records while inverting the aesthetic, offering more skeletal compositions that are every bit as wild-eyed in their subtlety. Press releases for Just Us hinted vaguely at the concept of the album being stripped-down foundations for other musicians to build new sounds on top of, and certainly the sonic palette is emptier than usual. "80hz" is little more than repeating figures on upright bass, blasts of discordant organ, waves of fuzz, and spare free-floating percussion, while the band slips into a surprisingly wide-open folky mode on the mandolin-driven "Cavaquiñho" and the spare acoustic strumming of "Gammes." The album is performed mostly by the duo of founding members Jean-Hervé Peron and Werner "Zappi" Diermaier, concentrating on space in most of these tunes. While the album can feel especially vacant on songs like "Nur Nous," a haunted sketch of sad piano and the occasional percussion thump, tracks like the lubricated groove of "Sur le Ventre" sound right out of the band's early-'70s catalog, interspersing tight rock repetitions with found sounds and psychedelic effects. Decades after their freewheeling beginnings, Just Us still shows a picture of a band as playful as it is fearless, willing to pick up any object, idea, or unlikely concept and transform it effortlessly into something strange and captivating.

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