Caution: hay-thresher at work: POP

Faust The Garage, London

"The group's usual instrumentation will be supplemented by amplified power-tools, arc-welder and hay-threshing machinery," promised the flier for Faust's Rock Aktion Party 96 at the Garage. As the group who first introduced the notion of industrial music back in the early Seventies, the power-tools and welding gear were pretty much par for the course, but it's not every day you get to see agri-tainment on a London stage, so the threshing offered a probably unrepeatable opportunity.

As it happens, this isn't the only added attraction laid on by the legendary Krautrock ensemble. For one piece, a cement-mixer is drafted in to provide a sluggish, grinding rhythm while the group's bassist takes to the trumpet, combining to produce an unearthly noise, which sounds something like an elephant's graveyard must sound like at rush-hour. Oddly, it's not in the least unpleasant, just different. The "usual instrumentation" in Faust's case isn't exactly like your average pop group's, anyway: the customised synthesiser, tapes, guitar, drums and bass are routinely accompanied by a stageful of pipes, oil-drums, hammers and things that go "clonk!" very loudly. Since their introduction of metallic percussion into the rock vocabulary, groups such as Test Department, Pere Ubu and Einsturzende Neubauten may have popularised the notion further, but none have approached their task with such obvious art-terrorist gusto.

Encased by a metal fence in front of the stage, a be-goggled sculptress beavers away as the group plays, welding chunks of metal together into a mutant humanoid form, then using a grinder to send showers of sparks out across band and audience alike. For a moment, one wonders about fire- safety precautions - but only for a moment, because by the third "tune", the bassist has taken off his clothes, leapt into the audience and made his way over to a large board at the side of the room, at which he proceeds to fling paint from several large cans, to the accompaniment of a tape- loop of a mother calling her children down to dinner. Pinned to the board, it transpires, are several hundred blank album sleeves, which, once dry, are used as covers for a limited edition of 300 records.

It's not all noise and industry. Interspersed between the more demanding pieces are a few pristine miniatures featuring classical acoustic guitar and gently tinkling percussion. At the opposite extreme, the threshing machine doesn't disappoint when called on to provide a fitting conclusion to the night's work: straddling it like a colossus, the bassist dumps into its hopper sack after sack of dried leaves, which are blown out across the audience like Railtracks's worst nightmare. I don't know whether it was art, but it was certainly entertaining. Then again, I didn't have to clear up after it.

Andy Gill

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