Greg Northrup 5-Sep-2006 Malesch + Second

Agitation Free was, without a doubt, among the premier "Krautrock" bands from the experimental German scene of the 70s. The group had an extremely unique style that put them in contrast with the guitar freak-out bands like Ash Ra Tempel or Guru Guru, as well as with any of the other various branches of the Krautrock movement. In essence, the group was a guitar-based ensemble with typical instrumentation, although Agitation Free incorporated a number of other influences into their classic releases such as a slight jazzy sensibility, somewhat reminiscent of the Canterbury scene of Britain, as well as cultural and ethnic music and a clear passion for the European avant-garde.

Agitation Free's first two albums, Malesch and Second are both clear-cut classics of the Krautrock scene, uniquely melodic, yet not without an exciting experimental drive and innovative approach. Last is a posthumous live release that is also excellent. Agitation Free were a completely mesmerizing group with a hypnotic and soothing tendency, but could also be a powerfully volcanic "rock" ensemble. Diverse influences, emotional drive, and extraordinary musicianship made Agitation Free one of the very best German progressive rock groups ever.

Malesch (1972)

Agitation Free's debut album is one of the absolute classic albums to come out of Germany in the 1970s. It is probably among my absolute favorite German albums next to the Ash Ra Tempel debut and Popol Vuh's Einsjager & Siebenjager. Agitation Free approached the groundbreaking experimental tendencies of the German scene from a different persepective than most of the other groups. Malesch takes a slightly more unique approach than the more jazzy follow-up Second would, although both albums are in the same basic vein. The album extensively incorporates ethnic and world music influences, due to the fact that much of the album was apparently composed on a trip to Egypt around the same time. Much of the album features sound samples and recordings from the trip, which are used to divide the tracks.

Most of the Arabic and ethnic influence is percussive, as exotic rhythms underpin Agitation Free's melodic and powerful guitar interplay. "You Play for Us Today" and "Sahara City" both build into exciting, driving, guitar-led crescendos. "Ala Tul" features an extraordinary Michael Hoenig (later of Tangerine Dream) keyboard motif that glides over the intense and magical percussive backdrop. "Pulse" tends to get bogged down a little in avant soundscapes, but does provide some breathing room and eventually morphs into a heavily hypnotic piece. "Khan E Khalili" and "Malesch" both build on the already established style of the album, and are full of powerful guitar interplay and a completely magical atmosphere. The soaring closer, "Ruckstruz," is totally majestic, a powerful melody that closes out this classic album in fitting form.

My overall opinion is obviously that this is one of the very finest German albums bar none. Agitation Free manages to be extremely melodic, yet retains that experimental focus that pushes their music waaaaaaayy out there. The incorporation of Arabic influences beneath the incredible guitar dueling makes this a unique entry in the Krautrock scene. Powerful, mystical, emotional... adjectives tend to fail in describing the subtle beauty of this album. I doubt that those already not predisposed towards the Krautrock/space-rock movement will find themselves converted by this album, but newbies would do well to start here. It doesn't get much better than this (or any more accessible for that matter).

Second (1973)

This is another classic album from Agitation Free, one of the leading lights of the Krautrock movement in Germany. As opposed to Malesch, Second shows some slight change in direction for the band. It becomes readily apparent on the first track that the band's sound is slightly jazzier, and the melodies are a little tighter and stonger. The guitar duels between Ulbrich and Diez are utterly gorgeous, and the melodies absolutely shimmer throughout the album. The only misstep is probably Hoenig's "Dialogue & Random", an experimental piece that is just random electronic blips for a couple minutes.

The two-part "Laila" piece is definitely a highlight, featuring a jazzy, almost funky bass groove from Michel Gunter to underpin the exquisite guitar explorations. "In the Silence of the Morning" uses another addictive bass motif to accentuate its hypnotic structure. "Haunted Island" is initially a little cheesy, being that it features some spoken word poetry (with heavy voice alteration), but it eventually develops into another excellent track with their trademark subtle guitar solos and gorgeous keyboard textures. Overall I'd say this album loses some of the mystical feel that Malesch had, due to the abscence of the Arabic percussive textures and melodies, although motifs of that kind do crop up at points. On the whole it seems to take a slightly more conventional path, and the incorporation of jazzy and near-Canterbury like passages is definitely effective. Personally, I probably prefer the more exotic feel of Malesch, but Second is definitely a fundamental Krautrock album.

Henry Schneider 5-Sep-2006 Last

Agitation Free were a mid-seventies German band with connections to Tangerine Dream through Michael Hoenig (keyboards) and Ash Ra through Lutz Ulbrich (percussion). Their three obscure LPs are constantly sought after by record collectors, especially the rare third "Last". "Last" consists of three live recordings from March 1973 and February 1974: 'Soundproof' (5:47), 'Laila II' (17:08), and 'Looping IV' (22:45). 'Laila II' has a dated guitar-dominated sound but it does not detract from the music. 'Laila II' is an extended cosmic guitar jam that hints at Quicksilver Messenger Service's classic 'Who Do You Love?', Amon Düül II, Ash Ra, and (of all bands) Jefferson Airplane. The high point of "Last" is the slow moving Looping IV with its wave after wave of electronic washes hinting at Tangerine Dream's "Zeit" and "Phaedra". It is great to listen to acoustic percussion used in an analog electronic piece. My ears have gotten tired of electronic percussion. The only draw back to this CD is that Spalax photo reduced the original album jacket to CD size: cover damage, red printing, and all. I could not read the liner notes without a magnifying glass and at that I am not certain about some of the words. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

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