Bless their subversive hearts! Faust had said that their preceding album, "Tapes" (That budget-priced wonder that broke them into the UK charts and proved that even in music price will at least get you sales, if not an audience) should not be considered their third album. So, In typical Faust fashion, what better name for the next release than IV?
Some years later, after very fine CD reissues that reproduced the iconic clear cover of their first, and the black art portfolio of "So Far" followed by several iterations of "Tapes" we have a definitive edition of "IV". And while this release demonstrates that you can improve on sound it also demonstrates that there's simply no improving music that is already perfect. The sound here is more clinical than the LP or earlier CD versions. In many ways the clarity of the re-mastering work is interesting. But you have to remember how big a role accident and imperfection -- as well as recognizing the recording process -- played in Faust's approach to music. Like the sometimes similar and equally brilliant This Heat, if it was worthwhile material it didn't seem to matter that it was captured on a little cassette deck or through a busted microphone: the imperfections created by marginal gear and equipment as well as the very character of the recording devices themselves became as integral an element of each piece as any instrument: "Leci n'est pas une pipe".
So "better" here must be viewed as a relative term. I'd settle for "different" and pretty much leave it at that. The additional tracks are all worth inclusion -- no real dross, though you may find the differences between some alternatives and their "official" versions to be sometimes rather slight. Still, why argue when those previously unheard pieces can now be heard? Add informative and intelligent liner notes to restored cover art and it's clearly an essential release to any collection already embracing Faust.
As for the music, this recording is very nearly the epitome of an era in which popular forms were stretched to past the breaking point by ideas about process and the elevation of the music studio as a participant -- rather than mere witness -- in the compositional process. Not just Sergeant Pepper's speed and direction tricks, but actual instrument-like levels of sound creation. No pun intended, but Faust very nearly single-handedly defined an aesthetic that even in retrospect remains profoundly individual and even iconoclastic within much of its contemporary milieu. Yet it still offers a sense of accessibility that much art rock remains incapable of to this day. From withholding the drums until you think "Krautrock" simply must not, can not be rock, until the "Sad Skinhead" wipes his tears and blows his nose and the drill finally gives you your very own bit of eardrum buzz pain, Faust closed their Virgin years with a brilliant, at moments tongue-in-cheek, at moments deliriously serious and amazing record. Re-master it all you want, it will never sound old.