Ten Most Underrated Prog Rock Albums

Categories: Lists

Faust - Faust IV
Progressive rock is best-known as a British thing, but in the late '60s and early '70s, the uprising of the alternative against the popular was actually more active in Germany. Oftentimes called Krautrock, it was very diverse, from the electronics of Cluster to the drone jams of Kraftwerk and the psychedelia of Can.

Faust was the most aligned with prog, at least in a subversive sense. The band's 1973 album, Faust IV, is a masterpiece in its meta-inventiveness. It debuted on prog fan Richard Branson's Virgin Records after he gave the group practically a blank check to record its fourth album. And though it did not prove a smart investment at the time, Faust IV (its last album until 1994's Rien) stands as a forward-thinking work. From the droning, 12-minute opener to the manic, bizarro punk of "Giggy Smile" to the pastoral charms of "It's a Bit of a Pain," the album has influenced everyone from Stereolab to the Flaming Lips to MGMT and quite possibly many future artists to come who still play real instruments.

Matus chose "Jennifer" to represent the album, which he notes features hyperaffected bass guitar. He theorizes Faust may have either found a way to make a guitar amp sound "boomy" via a tremolo function or hooked a tremolo pedal to the bass amp. His musings are somewhat correct. An email exchange with Faust bassist Jean-Hervé Péron revealed these facts:

"Bass: Fender Jazz; Amp: Dynacord; FX : tremolo, variable speed plus reverb (Binson analog). The tremolo was one of the built-in effects of our 'Black Box.' The depth would be set by hand on the Box and the speed was controlled by foot. Each Box had a floorboard of five pedals. The Binson reverb unit was an external FX. The intensity (mix of wet and dry) was foot controlled too. Plus [engineer] Kurt Graupner did some sound treatment on the desk... but that is a 'secret' that only he knows."

The effect comes across like a synthesizer, which builds to stranger sounds and even harder-to-identify noises. Those swell to screeches before making a strange left turn to a tongue-in-cheek, out-of-tune saloon piano solo.

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