London Royal Festival Hall

An emotionally draining experience...

London Royal Festival Hall

First active in the early '70s in Germany, [a]Faust[/a] were among the most influential yet under-regarded of the so-called 'Krautrock' groups.



Their music was a relentless collage of synthesiser brutalism and free rock improvisation punctuated with moments of haunting pastoral interludes.





Back in the late '90s they decided to reactivate their career. Their most successful project since then has been a live project in which they perform a semi-improvised soundtrack to F.W. Murnau's 1922 movie Nosferatu.



This they reprised at the Royal Festival Hall last night.

Faust's usual following was doubtless augmented here by cult followers of the movie, a very early and massively influential attempt at the horror genre.



Max Shreck plays the vampire looking like some evil, emaciated rodent who lays waste to a small German town. Though obviously dated in places, the film is still notable for its harrowingly black and white cinematography; a scene of the doomed ship that carries the count's coffin is especially

effective.



Faust's 'soundtrack' is not a conventional one - indeed, there are moments when their musical 'response' doesn't bear much relation to what's going on in the movie at all. Rather, triggered off by key moments in the movie, they embark on extended, formidable improvisations, awash with drones, heavy percussion and wave upon wave of black synthesiser, which certainly convey the ever-present sense of dread and trauma underlying the

movie.



It's most powerful when their musical pitches of intensity coincide with the most dramatic incidents in the film; when the vampire literally clutches the heart of his bedridden female victim in his death-grip, for instance. Less successful are the onstage pyrotechnics with which [a]Faust[/a] occasionally supplement the performance, which look like a bad garden fireworks display. Overall, however, an emotionally draining experience.

David Stubbs

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