woensdag 3 november 2010

Agitation Free - 1972 - Malesch

Agitation Free

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)

- Peter Michael Hamel / keyboards
- Michael Hoenig / synthesizer, keyboards
- Michel Gunter / bass
- Uli Pop / bongos
- Burghard Rausch / drums, keyboards, vocals
- Jorg Schwenke / guitar
- Lutz Ulbrich / guitar, keyboards 

A classic of the German space genre. Their current music is a combination of Progressive Rock and New Instrumental Music, with touches of Jazz and passages dedicated to an experimentation near to Ambient. Their originality was due to the blend electronic and repetitive musics with a lot of ethnic elements from North Africa, India, etc. Very much like your early ASH RA TEMPEL, GURU GURU type bands except with a cultural influence.

"Malesch" is an ethic excursion and a clear passion for the European avant-garde with extended guitar solos and mesmerizing atmospheres. "Second" is more Euro-folk inflected, with a stronger use of acoustic guitars and bouzouki. Both "Malesch" and "Second" are excellent space excursions but absolutely brilliant recordings... ESSENTIAL!.

Several AGITATION FREE albums were released after the group's breakup, including 1976's "Last", 1995's "Fragments" and the following years's "At The Cliffs of The River Rhine" (1998). The following year "River Of Return" appeared, featuring the original quartet as well as new members Johannes Pappert and Bernard Potschka. Their aptly titled "Last" is considered by many to be one of the best live space albums ever. Lots of acid-drenched guitar and electronics to really carry you "out there".

Before starting my review, I have to mention that the Middle-Eastern influence surrounding "Malesh" is greatly exaggerated. For years, I kept reading about how the band travelled around the Middle East (back in 1972), played with local musicians, and recorded local sounds. Well, they could have easily just made the album in Germany. That being said, this is excellent "krautrock". For those of you unfamiliar with krautrock, it's basically a genre of music that started in Germany around 1969 and peaked in the mid-70s. The music is influenced by psychedelic music (both American and English), yet the German musicians set out to create something entirely new. Many bands began to include electronic experiments, African and Middle-Eastern rhythms, Karlheinz Stockhausen-like experiments, local German influences, and industrial-like repetition into the music. For some collectors, the music that came out of the period is greatly overrated, but krautrock fans love its naive charm, and overall weirdness, not to mention that modern rock music owes everything to krautrock(for good or for bad). Okay, on to AGITATION FREE's "Malesh". The majority of the album is made-up of stoner-like jams. Fortunately, the musicians were quite good and sound rather tight on the album. If they did any drugs at the time, it was probably done after the recording sessions. The listener here is quickly treated to psychedelic interplay between bassist, guitarist, organ player, and electronic manipulation. For those of you worried about cliches found in psychedelic music, I have to say that the music here is quite original and unpredicitable. Once in a while I'm reminded of the GRATEFUL DEAD. In fact, the occasional Arabic-like jam on Malesh tends to sound similar to what the Dead were doing at the time. In between the tracks we find short field-recordings made by the band during their visit in Egypt, and Lebanon. Maybe at the time it was new to add "field recordings" to music, but today the idea has been quite accepted. So, the field-recordings here tend to serve as interludes between the longer jam sections. I do have to add that the ending of the album is rather emotional. The band bursts into a finale that is quite powerful, moving, and completely unexpected. In all, I was expecting something more Arabic in nature, but what I got instead sounds equally as good. If you're interested in Krautrock this is the introductory album to get. 

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