Boomkat Product Review:
The stunning next instalment in PAN’s Entopia series is an audio document of Anne Imhof’s acclaimed ‘Faust’ performance at the German Pavilion of the 2017 Venice Biennale - awarded the Golden Lion for Best National Participation. It’s a dramatic, rich and complex album that within the first three pieces alone transports you into multiple dimensions - from the distorted electronic burst of 'Opening March’ - something like Autechre’s 'Second Bad Vilbel' slowly unravelling, to the funereal, Nico/Desertshore-like hypnosis of 'Medusas Song’ and the soaring, elevated Vangelis-like synthwall of 'Red Scape’. It’s remarkable stuff that encapsulates PAN’s rich and important curatorial role, navigating multiple cultural strands with results that somehow push the same buttons for us as Yves Tumor’s 'Serpent Music’, which was such a shock to the system when it was released a couple of years ago. Impossible to define, endlessly rewarding music.
Part documentation, part elaboration of the live event, the 83 minute album to ‘Faust’ blends candid sonic snapshots with original arrangements in a magisterial suite that presents a detached yet immersive concision of the several hour performance seen by thousands over the course of the Biennale. Aesthetically comparable to the gothic sensuality of Nico’s seminal ‘Desertshore’ as much as torchlit Bach fugues and the tormented instrumental soundscapes of Scott Walker or Björk, the soundtrack acts as a timelessly evocative counter to the mix of brutalist and banal, casual realism - conveyed via a mix of imagery, dance, Dobermans and performers loafing around, checking their phones, masturbating - intended to reflect contemporary German life in Imhof’s performance-based exhibition.
Rendered in 18 parts, the dramatic music for ‘Faust’ was conceived in a band-like process by Anne Imhof with her close collaborators Billy Bultheel, Eliza Douglas, and Franziska Aigner during the months running up to its premiere. It hinges around three pieces ‘Medusa’s Song’, ‘O.W.E.N.’ and ‘Queen Song’, sung in distinctive ominous baritone by Eliza Douglas and Franziska Aigner, whose plaintive delivery lends a crushing, classic levity to the recordings, while the parts in between are coloured and textured by a mix of fleeting, abstract electronics, baroque funereality and beta-blocking doom numbness realised by Billy Bultheel. Vacillating sounds captured during performance as well as studio creations, the results are in flux between polyphonic antiquity and polymetric complexity, providing a hauntingly anachronistic, airborne spirit that connects and locates the performers within the space’s starkly transparent, modernist dimensions of raised reinforced-glass floor and steel ledges attached to high walls.
Bought to life with mixing by Nanni Johannsson at Berlin’s famous Hansa Studios, and Ville Haimala (Amnesia Scanner), the soundtrack to ‘Faust’ is weft with a deep sense of sadness and contemplative torpor that speaks acutely to the work’s central themes of power, complicity, and vulnerability, and seamlessly absorbs the listener in its headspace for a remarkable, transformative hour.