Agitation Free - 2nd [MIG - 2019]Kosmische pioneers Agitation Free were formed in 1967, around the same time as their contemporaries Can and Amon Duul. 2nd is the follow up to their debut album Malesch, which was released a year earlier in 1972. The fact they were quite late of releasing their debut was both a blessing and a curse as whilst they had honed their craft by this time, they had missed out on the initial rise in popularity which had seen bands like Can and Amon Duul rise to the fore.
Whilst the sound on Malesch was a glorious meshing of psychedelia and Arabian/ Middle Eastern sounds 2nd is something quite different, yet it still remains identifiable as an Agitation Free album.
First Communication gets the album underway building from nothing and utilising the sounds of nature to ease us in. Once the guitars and drums kick in we are treated to a track that almost acts as a conduit to the band’s change of style as it blends some of the spacey Pink Floyd style jams of the debut with the newer more pastoral sound of West Coast America. Dialogue and Random is up next, a short avant garde piece that acts as a bridge between songs. Laila Part 1 operates as a guitar heavy introduction to the longer Laila Part 2 a near seven minute slab of cosmic jazz, and one of the album’s key tracks. There is a pronounced Grateful Dead influence to the guitar playing that recalls some of their longer drawn out jams where Garcia and Bob Weir would take things off in a myriad of different directions.
In the Silence of the Morning Sunrise kicks the second half of the album into life, and after a slow electronic opening the track kicks into gear with some slightly off kilter jazz influenced guitar playing. Like most of the album, the sound is rarely cluttered and the whole thing always feels like it has room to breath and just go where it wants to, almost as if the whole thing was a product of the session it was recorded at. It also highlights the almost telepathic understanding each member of the band has of what their bandmates are playing. A Quiet Walk is next, the longest track on the album at over nine minutes in length, and after a very slow build involving the sound of flowing water the track very slowly springs to life, in fact we are over five minutes in before it really kicks into gear. The second half of the track is dominated by folky acoustic guitars (reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s dalliances with acoustic music on III and IV) with some liquid lead guitar work laid over the top for good measure. The album’s regular closer is Haunted Island, spooky and ambient, this avant garde monster is probably my favourite on the whole album and interestingly is the only track to feature any vocals. By the end of the track it has returned us back to the improvisational style we have grown accustomed to across the previous 30 odd minutes. This new CD edition closes with a live recording of Laila from 1974 as a bonus.
Overall 2nd is a great record from one of the true pioneers of Kosmische rock, it highlights a band who are not afraid to change things up, who keeping seeking new and different ideas. Unfortunately, things would fragment after this album and whilst the band did release a third record (Last) in 1976, 2nd was to be their final studio offering. Of the two studio albums I find it hard to choose a favourite as both are quite unique and interesting in their own right. In any way you look at it, the fact that they only recorded two studio records is a real shame. They most certainly had the ability to rival any of their contemporaries, and certainly deserve to be more than a footnote in the history of Kosmische music.Darren Charles