Agitation Free – in session at ORTF Studios, Paris – June 19, 1973 – ORTF – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Agitation Free tonight. Continuing the early-(ish) days of Progressive Rock and the offshoot genre taking shape in Germany to forever be known as Krautrock. Starting in a much different musical way when they formed in 1967, Agitation Free gravitated towards Prog and fellow experimenters Amon Düül II and Can. Their sound was more along the lines of an extended jam, but they were still far away from the mainstream, and for a lot of it, far away from easy access to the U.S. market except by way of imports. Hence, probably a main reason why, even as a fan of Progrock at the time, you may not have heard of them, unless you spent most days scouring the bins at your local record store who just happened to stock imports. One or two copies of a band that was new to people would come in and they would be instantly grabbed up by fans who didn’t care whether they knew a band or not. If it looked experimental and the album covers looked essentially avant garde enough, they wouldn’t spend much time in the bin before they found new homes.
Trouble was, most of the time the record store would only be able to land two or three albums and fresh copies were almost impossible to find.
Agitation Free had a pretty solid reputation and fan base in Europe. Their music was psychedelic and experimental with elements of spaced-out ambient, experimental electronic and drone. The music for the most part consisted of driving organ-patterned drone-like rock; seamless psychedelic cosmic musical textures with intricate musicianship and musical variety; hard, driving rock similar to Amon Düül II; and jamming that occasionally invoked the interplay and styles of Garcia, Weir and Lesh of The Grateful Dead and hints at a blues rock base not unlike The Allman Brothers Band. Many of their songs had a trance-inducing, psychedelic feel with sections of driving rock fueled by fiery and melodic moving guitar lines and solid, propelling and intricate drumming and a prominent bass line. All of Agitation Free’s songs were instrumental apart from some recitation on “Haunted Island”.
Agitation Free’s first album Malesch was cosmic, aggressive, psychedelic, creative, ethnically flavored (mainly by short interludes of recordings from Egypt), mysterious and densely packed with ideas whereas their second, titled 2nd was more laid-back and upbeat, with longer structure, much more of an emphasis on traditional styled jamming à la the Grateful Dead and a warmer and more straightforward sound. On Malesch the songs blended together to make a seamlessly flowing, tangential and uninterrupted musical journey, whereas on 2nd songs were more predictably structured, more varied in their sound and stood more as independent works.
Agitation Free’s sound was similar to, but fairly distinguishable from, other contemporary Krautrock bands such as Ash Ra Tempel, Amon Düül II, Guru Guru, Brainticket, Yatha Sidhra and Kalacakra, as well as the mixed-influence blues-based jam rock of The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers noticeable on 2nd, and slightly later and more symphonic bands like Asia Minor and Anyone’s Daughter.
If you missed them the first time around (or the second, third or fourth times before breaking up for good in 2013) here’s a chance to sample what Agitation Free were all about – a 17 minute free-form jam, pretty much their trademark sound.
Crank it up and get ready for the weekend.
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