Despite some pretty intensive exposure to Prog Rock through our list here and through various outstanding Prog Rock Web sites, occasionally, I still get an utterly pleasant surprise. Somebody recommends a group or an album that has no reviews that I am aware of, no promotion or pre-release information, and nobody talks about it. I start listening to it and within 2 minutes I am hooked. So, I say "Anyone can produce a good track," but then track after track is just as good.
is my experience with a German group named FAUN that released a single double-CD
live album in 1998. A friend from Munich told me to get it, I asked a friend
from Scandinavia who said, "Yeah, it's marvelous." I went looking
for info about them/it and first I found nothing, then, digging a bit deeper
I got several reviews in German, which I understand marginally. Unequivocally,
they all loved it.
Some of the critics refer to Faun's style as Neoprog. I'll be damned if I know what that means anymore ? I think when some people don't like some music they refer to it as neoprog. Hey, chill.. I am kidding.
Well, Faun's music is at times blatantly melodious bordering on romantic, at other times it borders on prog metal, but never gets stuck in either, remaining deliciously (or is it? devilishly?) indefinable. Just the way I like my music. Although Brigitte Groll's flutes and Marko Brenzinger's guitars seem to be most prominent, four different people (Ulrich Miksa, Christoph Roth, Brigitte & Marko) play keyboards, all in impeccable manner and taste. These musicians are, without exception, refined, cultured, well trained, and with their hearts up front, for the careful listeners to hear. I say this because it's the only way I can explain their incredible dynamic range from lyrical to (very seldom) almost harshly dissonant. I also say "almost" because they never linger too long in any specific mood (except Track 6 on Disk 2, which should be listened to with only candle lights on), preferring instead to take us with them on wonderfully imaginative sound journeys.
One would think that a title like "Born Bad II" would have to be punkish or at least Death Metal, but with Faun it becomes almost a Spanish elegy. Serious goose pimples time, guys and gals. But only for the first 2 minutes of the 9+ minute track. because just as unexpectedly as a summer thunderstorm 9+ it turns into borderline disorder (aha, the neo part I guess), but not before a couple of phrases that remind me of Corea's "My Spanish Heart". This dissolves into Track 2's piano solo that is as good as anything I have heard in recent months. I dare you not to dream when listening to these musicians. If "Lady Banshee" doesn't melt your heart, your heart is stone. Soon after that, "Mr. Industry" would give any hard-edge prog band a run for its money. At some point my wife detected a Mike Oldfield (track "Wondrous End") phrase, then a Floydesque tune? Hmmm? Maybe. If I had to compare, which I loathe to do, I would think early Marillion or Saga, but even that is a stretch.
The tunes are interesting, varied, melodic, and harmonious (as opposed to dissonant, like, say, DEM), and charmingly beautiful. I detect some Eastern and Medieval themes. Superb songwriting! Brigitte's flute is the best I have heard since Kollar Attila and the guitars can wail, stomp, or "talk" to another instrument or the voice of Christoph Roth, whose (occasionally) plaintive voice is engaging and adds color to the music, just like any other excellent instrumentalist's contribution would. One of the best voices for rock I have heard, and this is coming from a listener who prefers his prog sans vocals. I mentioned earlier that flute, voice, and guitar are prominent, but I hasten to add that for us keyboard lovers the piano solos in "On A Magician's Flight" and "Warm September Rain" will provide delightful satisfaction. I promise.
The title track "Wondrous End" is both a dedication to Blade Runner and, IMHO, also a good-bye to the fans who have followed this "wondrous" band throughout their short-lived career of live concerts. About the only question that I have in my mind is why would a regional band from Wuerzburg that never wandered too far from home choose to write the lyrics and sing in English. The meaning of the lyrics leaves me wondering, although, the visual images they invoke smack of surrealism.
This is a tight-playing cohesive group who sounds like they have been playing together for many years. After nearly two and half hours of Faun, I wanted more. Unfortunately, as Uli (Ulrich Miksa) writes, "So we decided to end Faun, because two members were already leaving Wuerzburg due to jobs and "Wondrous End" should be the farewell gift for our fans." Uli is still writing songs (he is "Laughing Tear") but he says, "I don't think it sounds quite like Faun (as you can here on the demo downloads of "Feelings"), but perhaps Marko from Faun will play some guitar parts to get a little bit of the Faun vibes. :) [I hope he doesn't mind my cut & pasting from his email].
Download the samples of complete tracks from "Feelings" and judge for yourself. Considering that Uli's live-mixing is so good that you cannot tell that "Wondrous End" is a live album until the audience claps, I would think he can't do anything but beautiful music. He is also a terrific keyboard player. Uli is the person who can direct you to how to obtain the album if you are not in the States. He is a pleasure to "talk to" and, despite his modesty, his English is quite good. Also, if you do hear the album and love it as much as I do, please visit Faun's GuestBook and leave a note. Just click on the link "Zum Gaestebuch" at www.laughingtear.de. They really deserve much more recognition they have gotten so far, especially from the International prog community.
What a true TREASURE this album is! Faun's "Wondrous Ending" is, thus far, the best music I have heard this year. If you are in the States, do yourself a favor and get this gem from Greg <firstname.lastname@example.org>. It will be the best $22 you spend this year on music.
Andrew J. Rosza, e-Prog, September 2004
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