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Faust with Tony Conrad - Outside the Dream Syndicate: Alive

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Artist: Faust with Tony Conrad

Album: Outside the Dream Syndicate: Alive

Label: Table of the Elements

Review date: Oct. 31, 2005

Faust fans are deeply indebted to Table of the Elements. It was fantastic to see the Faust/Conrad collaboration Outside the Dream Syndicate back in the catalogue upon its 30th anniversary reissue in 2002. Last year, 1994’s Rien came back into print after a long and inexplicable absence. Now comes this CD issue of the 1995 Faust/Conrad Queen Elizabeth Hall show, long discussed, bootlegged and now, finally, widely available.

Anybody who’s reveled in the hypno-purr, clang and swoosh that typified the 1972 effort might feel, as I did, that as great as that album was, a certain push over the edge was lacking. All of the necessary components were there – Jean Herve Peron’s rippingly metallic bass, Zappi Deiarmeir’s stoically thunderous drums, Conrad’s shrill and ever-changing “eternal music” violin ruminations, all augmented by keyboard atmospheres courtesy of the late Rudolf Sosna. It all sounds just a shade too perfect now, too contrived, with every element audible without achieving the necessary blend. As a recent album title has it, “It’s magnificent, but it isn’t war.” Conrad’s Early Minimalism project came much closer to how I imagined the 1972 material to sound in Wumme – stark, full, distortion breeding difference tones which breeded three-dimensionality.

The 1995 show kicks off with a bang as Conrad hurtles headlong into the familiar drone, this time with more energy and focus than usual. He is joined eventually by violin and cello, and those chest-rattling low frequencies kick in; the overtones ascend, filling space and frequency spectrum with static, and just as saturation threatens, Zappi shatters the screaming silence with uhr-groove artillery. For perhaps the only time on disc, his legendary explosions are captured in all their slow-burn bludgeoning glory. He and Peron are in thunderous agreement throughout, Peron snapping a string and literally drawing blood before it’s all over. The audience is enthusiastic to say the least, a few moments of down-right confrontation filling the gap between the set proper and what I’m assuming to be an eight-minute encore.

As with any release in which Conrad is a participant, to attempt a concise description is akin to verbalizing a waterfall or summarizing the inner workings of a motor. The two Faustians provide the perfectly repetitive backdrop to Conrad’s microtonal reflections, and if the rehearsal recordings from a recently released and limited box set are fit evidence, they are taking the same venom and vigor on the road as they tour the UK (without Conrad) in late October and early November. It is fitting that the QEH gig sees release now; Faust is re-examining its legacy, and this concert is an indispensable component. I hope it is only the precursor to further archival releases.

By Marc Medwin

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