Thursday, May 17, 2018

Agitation Free - Malesch (1st Album German Progressive Rock 1972) & Agitation Free - 2nd (German Progressive Rock 1973)

Size: 116 MB
Bitrate: 256
Ripped by: ChrisGoesRock
Artwork Included
Source: Japan SHM-CD Remaster

Having generated a cult following for years, since the late 60s, it was surprising that this relevant krautrock act had taken so long before they recorded and released their debut album; but again, better late than never. Agitation Free created an excellent first album, full of ethnic vibrations and exotic magic, which appears perfectly combined with the hard rocking guitar riffing and electric keyboard psychedelic effects, mandatory elements in the kraut context. Before the band achieved their first recording contract, they took a trip to Morocco, something that they seemed particularly interested in documenting and manifesting all throughout the repertoire. 

By then Agitation Free had a distinct sound based on the musicians' finesse, which would always show above the wall of psychedelic, blues-tinged noise that stands as a signature pattern of krautrock: their rocking jams always bore a certain magical aura, that made their music ethereal, besides, of course, energetic and trippy. It is not dueling as much as complementing what both guitarists (Ulbrich and Schwenke) recurrently do, while the organ parts create an ethereal wall of sound, confidently flowing in the background; the rhythm section uses lots of exotic cadences (plus the use of marimba) in order to keep on par with the ethnic stuff and, simultaneously, to found a solid pace for the other musicians' jamming. Bassist Gunther is a very skillful in his role (arguably, the most gifted musician in this combo), displaying some intricate, powerful lines that, at times, assume a prominent role in the mix - for example, 'Sahara City'. 

The opening track 'You Play for us Today' sounds really intense without getting overtly aggressive: 'Khan El Khalili' and the namesake track are the most energetic numbers in the album, but let's keep in mind that these guys' main musical concern is to lay out ethereal ambiences and sonic layers, instead of merely creating defying, explosive sonic electric storms (something that Ash Ra Temple or Guru Guru do happily and unabashedly). 

'Pulse' is an amazing jam that sees AF absorbing influences from their fellow countrymen Can and Tangerine Dream, while 'Ala Tull' displays lots of percussive stuff on the frontline. 'Rucksturz' is the shortest track: it closes the album with a recognizable line, something like a tender epilogue. A great album this is, indeed: "Melesch" is one of the definitive cornerstones of kraut. []

01. You Play For Us Today (6:08) 
02. Sahara City (7:42) 
03. Ala Tul (4:50) 
04. Pulse (4:43) 
05. Khan El Khalili (8:10) 
06. Malesch (8:10) 
07. Rücksturz (2:09)

08. Music Factory (15.14) 

Agitation Free - 2nd (German Progressive Rock 1973)

Size: 106 MB
Bitrate: 256
Ripped by: ChrisGoesRock
Artwork Included
Source: Japan SHM-CD Remaster

In some ways, Second is the logical successor to Malesh with its twin guitar "attack"; these two (Schwenke is replaced by Dietz following drugs problems) are so mellow that it seems a shame to call them an attack. But the name "attack" is now apt for the drumming since the group enlisted a second drummer (ex-ART Burmeister), thus giving an exacting edge that only the Allman Bros Band had before. Losing the second drummer just prior to recording their aptly-titled Second, AF retained all of the inertia and the album has a fantastic ABB fluidness wherever necessary. Graced with a drought, than rain season artwork, this second album lost all ethnic touches of Malesh, one passage excepted, proof that their debut's rep was indeed overdone. 

Starting on the First Communications, you can hear the Floydian cosmic/psych influences of Malesh will also be relatively absent as well. Dialogue & Random is an electronic free jazz improve leading into the two-part Leila, which is strongly reminiscent of the ABB's Elizabeth Reed and fades into Silence Of The Morning sunrise with electronic birds chirping along to tranquil electric guitars gliding along the organ mist layers. Superb music. The birds lead you to a slow Quiet Walk into a cosmic dark hole (Tangerine Dream's Zeit is not far away here) if it wasn't for an electric Indian-laced guitar (the only real ethnic moment of this album), before stretching itself out maybe a tad too long. The closing Haunted Island is the only sung track of the album, filtered, almost recitative over a superb mellotron, and once over, the two guitars take over and soar in the sky for a grandiose finale.

Although AF's second album holds some fairly different influences, trading in the Arabian and cosmic /psych Floyd ambiance, for a more pastoral west coast sound, both albums can be regarded as AF's crowning achievements, although neither reaches perfection.

Well, the second Agitation Free album is different to the first one. The Ethno influences are completely gone as well as the oriental impact. But with everything gone wich made the first album what it is, the second one doesn't weaken, far from it, I consider "2nd" to be even better than "Malesch". Yes it's not as playful but still isn't a slight fare. What makes this album so great is the symbiosis of Hoenig's electrical gadgetry and Keyboard playing (It might be helpful to mention that Hoenig later on gets a member of Tangerine Dream) and the guitar playing by the very talented and often underrated Lutz Ulbrich and Stefan Dietz. The guitar work mainly consists of long and beautiful improvisations wich either alternate or collude with Hoenig's Keyboard and Synth sounds.

"First Communication" is one of the best songs of this album. Here you can impressively experience what I meant with long guitar improvisations. It's Krautrock at it's best and IMO one of the best songs of this genre. In "Dialogue And Random" you get to hear some of Hoenig's nice gimmicks and electrical sounds, very typical for german prog music BTW. The both "Laila" parts feature nice guitar solos and improvisations paired with nice and atmospherical Keyboard and Organ sounds in the background. I think "In the silence of the morning sunrise" again features some really great guitar sounds as well as a talented Hoenig on keyboards. 

The whole tune is introduced by some nice electric sounds wich create the perfect atmosphere concerning the title of the song. Chirping crickets and twittering birds wich also linger throughout the whole song. "A quiet walk" is maybe the prime example for the perfect symbiosis of Hoenig and the guitar players. The first half of the song belongs to the electrical improvisations reminicent of Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze untill after some minutes the guitar and bazouki appear, first very muted and slowly, after a final bulky organ chord take over, terrific. "Haunted Island" is quite queer and features vocals, more recitative than singing. Very dark, I like it. And again, you get some fine guitar work here.

"2nd" by Agitation Free is, at least for me, one of the best Krautrock recordings. The guitar improvisations sound amazing and the symbiosis with the talented Hoenig really put you over the edge. This album is worth every penny and features no single bad song. If there's a Krautrock recoring I would recommend without concern this would be the one. It's an album with the possibility to get you into Krautrock, to discover the wolrd of germany's music from the seventies. It's highly recommended.

01. First Communication (8:10)
02. Dialogue And Random (1:51)
03. Layla, Part 1 (1:41)
04. Layla, Part 2 (6:47)
05. In The Silence Of The Morning Sunrise (6:33)
06. A Quiet Walk (9:15)
a) Listening
b) Two-not Of The Same Kind
07. Haunted Island (7:11)

08. Laila '74 (7.41)

Shibuya Nights (Live in Tokyo 2007) (Bonus)

01. You Play for Us Today [Live 2007] - 06.12
02. Malesch [Live 2007] - 05.42
03. Rucksturz [Live 2007] - 02.57
04. First Communication [Live 2007] - 06.25
05. In the Silence of the Morning Sunrise [Live 2007] - 06.22
06. Laila [Live 2007] - 07.37
07. Shibuya Nights [Live 2007] - 06.15
08. Ala Tul [Live 2007] - 06.15

In 1967 two beat groups from Berlin were on the verge of splitting up. The leading forces behind these groups were Lutz 'Luul' Ulbrich and Michael 'Fame' Gunther. They decided to join forces, and with some other remaining musicians they took the name Agitation Free. Agitation Free were probably the first German group to use slide projectors and a multi-media show during their live appearances. For this reason they were engaged as the household band at the Zodiac, Berlin's answer to London's U.F.O., where the psychedelic underground was literally flowering. Such later famous groups as Tangerine Dream and Curly Curve (well, not so very famous in this case...) also appeared at the Zodiac regularly. In early 1968 Agitation Flee were expanded by John L. on lead vocals. Not exactly a gifted vocalist, he sometimes entertained the audience by walking around naked with a painted penis on stage! He was fired about a year later, apparently the rest of the group had grown tired of this particular (peculiar) Stage Show. His voice was luckily preserved for later generations when he "sang" on Ash Ra Tempel's brilliant Schwingungen album in 1972.

1970 was a very erratic year for Agitation Free. Lutz Kramer quit, and was temporary replaced by Ax Genrich, soon to be a member of Guru Guru. Agitation Free shared a practice room at the Wilmersdorf music academy with Ash Ra Tempel and Tangerine Dream at (his time, and many experiences and ideas were swapped. There was also quite an exchange of members between these groups. Agitation Free's instructor was Thomas Kessler, a German avant-garde composer. He taught them to play with notations, composition and harmony learning. When Genrich joined Guru Guru, he was replaced with Jorg Schwenke. Chris Franke then accepted Edgar Froese's offer to be the new drummer in Tangerine Dream after Klaus Schulze quit. Gerd Klemke stepped in as Agitation Free's drummer for some months of the last half of 1970. Finally a quintet was stabilised in 1971. At the beginning of 1972 the group went on an expanded tour to Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Greece, sponsored by The Goethe Institute. Michael Gunther recorded local musicians they met and jammed with on the tour. Extracts of these recordings were included on Malesch (released Summer 1972), which collected the impressions from their eastern travels. This excellent album revealed a very talented and competent young group, and it was dedicated to their teacher Kessler. "You Play For Us Today" opened with a short dialogue, before a deep, majestic organ tone created a trance-like mood. Gunther came in with a great, steady bass riff, flavoured with eastern rhythms (Uli Popp guested here on bongos). "Sahara City" started with a long and floating guitar glissando, but had a fast, heavy finale. "Ala Tul" and some other tracks featured the leader of Between, Peter Michael Hamel, on hammond organ. "Pulse" was an early experiment with electronic sequencing. "Khan El Khalai", "Malesch" and the short 'Ruckzuck" gave plenty of time for Schwenke and Ulbrich to show off on guitar. An immaculate record!

In March 1973 Jorg Schwenke had to quit due to his increasing drug habits. His replacement was Stefan Diez. A second drummer was also added to the line-up: Dietmar Burmeister who had recorded on Seven Up with Ash Ra Tempel. A 90 minutes long production for radio, consisting of edited live performances (made during a ten days live session in a house in the German countryside) was broadcasted in April 1973. The six-piece group went on a very successful two months tour in France. Recordings for radio were also taped during this tour. Parts of these finally made it to vinyl on Last three years later, namely "Soundpool" (renamed version of "Ruckzuck" from Malesch) and a 17 minute long version of "Laila" (a composition included on their forthcoming second album).

With Diez, but without Burmeister, the band went in the studio to record 2nd in July 1973. This time music was more subdued and meditative in a sophisticated way. The eastern flavour was not so distinctive this time, but the musical quality was certainly intact! "First Communication'' started the album off with white noise, wind and a distant bouzouki played by Ulbrich. A harmonic melody line on guitar slides slowly in and builds up a really great track, almost predating some of Fichelscher's guitar work with Popol Vuh. "Dialogue And Random" was a short synthesizer experiment by Honig, not bearing any resemblance to his solo albums. The tuneful two part "Laila" finished side one. Electronic bird sounds on "In The Silence Of The Morning Sunrise" opened the other side. The track built up to fragile, jazzy rock almost in the melodious Terje Rypdal vein. "A Quiet Walk" included more atmospheric, electronically created environment sounds, before bouzouki and treated guitar introduced melody lines. "Haunted Island" finished the album in a dramatic vein with a heavy rhythm, mellotrons and Burghard Rausch's treated recitation of an Edgar Allan Poe poem.

Shortly after 2nd, Diez quit and the band's activities now decreased. For a last tour of France In January 1974 Gustav Lutjens was engaged as Agitation Free's new second guitarist. Their last studio work was a recording of a Erhard Grosskopf composition ("Looping IV") in February 1974. This would fill up the second side of the Last album, which was only released in France posthumously in 1976. It was a nice testament to a superb band. They performed a few concerts during the Summer of 1974 and then disbanded after a final goodbye concert in Berlin, November 1974.

Lutz Ulbrich teamed up with Manuel Gottsching in 1976 for several Ashra-projects. He has also made scene music for some theatres in Berlin. Michael Honig, as Franke had done five years before him joined Tangerine Dream, but was with them for just two months (including a tour in Australia) in the Spring of 1975. Before that he had a short collaboration with Klaus Schulze (doing concerts in Brussels, Zevenaar and Paris in November and December 1974). It was also planned that Honig should join Ashra for a tour in November 1976, but this didn't happen.

Agitation Free was one of the best groups to appear in Germany in the early seventies, and their albums are obligatory in any German rock collection!

Part 1: Agitation Free
Part 2: Agitation Free
Part 3: Agitation Free
Part 1: Agitation Free
Part 2: Agitation Free
Part 3: Agitation Free
Part 1: Agitation Free
Part 2: Agitation Free
Part 3: Agitation Free


doors97426 said...

Thank You For posting all these years very kind of you and yes great lp's you post

dahomey said...

Big thanx for Your work.

Anonymous said...

As the review says, 2nd in particular is a great album to introduce one's psych/jam band friends to Krautrock. Years ago it was the first German psych album to come on to my radar via streaming radio, and I've been exploring the genre ever since.

Rochacrimson said...

What can i say...many many thanks Chris!
If you can post other Agitation albums remastered with bonus tracks...big big thanks!!!

TheCountess said...

Yeah! Thanks.