Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Wakes Nosferatu

Released 1997 on Klangbad
Reviewed by Wildman, 26/08/2003ce

This album is overlooked because it was created outside Krautrock’s “golden era” – and, it must be said, after Faust reformed and did the comeback thing (which is showbiz whatever way you look at it). It’s a pity, because this is a truly original album.

And it did not help that when reviewers sat down to consciously listen to it, it seemed to have none of the things to recommend: music, melody, rhythm or attitude. I bought it after seeing a review that read like a nervous breakdown; the fellow described it as impossible to review and took to repeating that it was the most frightening album ever made.

The cover announces it as: “A live interpretation by Faust of the F. W. Murnau film Nosferatu”. And it is just that, a soundtrack to a nightmare. The cardboard sleeve contains vampire puncture wounds, stamped through the cover to reveal blood marks on the booklet within. But overlook this gimmick, because Nosferatu is a very subtle album. There are none of the campy theatrics of the bands that cite horror films as inspiration. It’s more gothic than Goth, more psychological than slasher.

It’s hard to pick out band members’ individual roles, as the instruments are used solely as sources of noise to create an atmosphere. Greasy keyboard and guitar sounds slide in and out, producing a sick feeling. The drums replicate a racing pulse – but sparingly, to build the tension. There are bells and other noises, treated sounds that you can’t quite place. And, odd as this seems, Faust manage to use silence to convey a threatening atmosphere. You really do think something horrible is going to happen when they all shut up. It’s like they have seen something so freaky they all stopped playing.

This is not spacerock for lazy afternoons. It works as an ambient album, brooding away in the background. It’s a truly horrible album. It demands to be played quietly, after dark, so it can ooze into your room. It’s music that makes you forget you are listening to music.

There is melody and rhythm buried within Nosferatu, but you only get the sense of it from playing the complete album and picking up on the atmosphere – it’s an ambient CD, but unlike any ambient CD you heard before.

Nosferatu is music for haunted houses. When I lived in an eerie old place, complete with resident footsteps that passed through a bricked-up corridor, this was my CD of choice. It made sense – why try to whistle a jaunty tune and call out “I’m not scared”?

I would not recommend paying high import prices for this album, or buying it ahead of the Krautrocksampler picks, because you will not want to play it every day. But if you do have slightly gothic tendencies, you should know that this is out there.

As they say, some people don’t believe in ghosts, but everyone believes in ghost stories.

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