Agitation Free - Last, Fragments and Live 74( CD & DVD boxset) [MIG - 2016]Formed in 1967, Agitation Free are one of the originators of the German Kosmische scene along with the likes of Amon Duul and Can. Sadly Agitation Free have never received the same level of praise for their ground-breaking albums, as their peers, so when a retrospective like this comes along it’s great to get the chance re-evaluate their work.
The box set features a trio of albums recorded in 1974, their third official release Last, originally issued in 1976, and two albums that were released posthumously, Fragments, and Live ’74. As well as collecting these three albums together this release also comes with a fourth disc, a DVD featuring the reformed band performing live in concert in 2013.
The first disc features third album Last, deemed by many to be their finest hour. Opening track Soundpool is more than a little reminiscent of Faust at their most experimental. Building slowly from its humble beginnings of ambient drones and almost industrial type sounds it changes dramatically around the four minute mark, becoming both more melody driven and more traditionally progressive at the same time. The following track Laila II is a near 17-minute progressive/ acid jam track with some incendiary guitar work courtesy of Lutz Ulbricht and Gustl Luetjens. The track develops across its length into a work of space rock magnificence, rivalling those masters of the genre, Can. Looping IV is an epic 25 minute slice of Eastern influenced space rock, that recalls much of the best music of the period, the first disc closes out with the track Schwingspule, a fairly creepy, sinister, opening leads to some more traditional motorik beats, and more arse kicking guitar playing.
Disc two features the live album Fragments, and highlights what a great live band they were. Spread across five tracks the album sounds like a band at the peak of their powers, the guitar playing is superb, and when vocals are introduced midway through opener Someone’s Secret they work perfectly in tandem with the guitars to create something quite spectacular. The Improvisational nature of the songs and the jazzy sound reminds me of another band with links to Germany, Sweet Smoke. Hailing from Baltimore they moved to Germany and released 3 albums of fine improv, jazz prog, and there is a definite similarity between their debut Just A Poke and the material on show here.
Third disc Live ’74 follows in a similar vein, in fact these three albums sit so well together they almost sound like they were recorded as a triple disc set. The formula remains the same on this disc, experimental, progressive, jazzy at times and with loads of space for the guitars to ebb and flow, all punctuated by the odd truly experimental slice of electronic weirdness such as Dialog and Random. This is the sort of thing I tend to throw on when working and just let it flow over me, it is beautiful, improvisational and relaxing, and proves once and for all that there was much more to the Kosmische scene than just Amon Duul, Can, Faust, Popol Vuh, and Tangerine Dream.
The fourth disc is a live DVD recorded at the Kesselhaus, Berlin in 2013 during the band’s most recent reformation. Featuring music from across their career the live concert footage is of a band comfortable back on stage together, the music is tight and the performances are excellent. The concert ends with a live rendition of the Pink Floyd classic Interstellar Overdrive that brings this wonderful box set to a close.
Agitation Free may not have received the same number of plaudits as their more famous kin, the near legendary Can, Tangerine Dream and Amon Duul, but they prove across this set that they certainly deserve to held in the same esteem. Beautiful, uplifting, progressive, and spaced out rock music that takes the listener on a magical trip to the stars and beyond.Darren Charles