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Agitation Free - Malesch CD (album) cover


Agitation Free



4.00 | 253 ratings

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3 stars Derivative, but fun

Ah... Krautrock. Gotta love the earthy rawness of it. Just about every album in this genre that I have heard to date comes with large helpings of sincerity in delivery and obvious devotion to their inspirations.

In the case of Agitation Free, pre-Meddle Pink Floyd are the order of the day, with decided Middle Eastern overtones and a clear root in 1960s psychedelia.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in "You Play For Us Today" - although I kinda wish the bassist had bothered to tune up... Bits of "Set the Controls..." drift through, with maybe smatterings of "Interstellar Overdrive" and "Astronomy Domine". An interesting jam, with a few alarming moments where you feel that they might completely lose direction altogether - a common feature in Krautrock, it would seem.

"Sahara City" starts with flavours of Egypt, then fades into something resembling one of those quieter spacey moments on the Gong album of your choice. This is nicely executed, although the guitarist really tries too hard at the Syd Barrett thing - the thing with Syd's style was that it was artistic and communicated. It really wasn't as random as many would have you believe - including Syd. When you make it random, it can end up sounding like aimless noodling if you're not careful... anyway, fortunately there's not too much of this, and a wonderful sonic journey continues with a regular ticking sound that could have come from Dark Side of the Moon, and a build up that might have been one of the jam sessions for Echoes. This really is a great build up until the guitar starts noodling rather amateurishly, elements in the music are explored and layered, and it really is such a pity when the guitar solo section kicks in, as this is a rather average garage jam.

"Ala Tul" begins with more spacey electronics - Great!!! The dischordant analogue keyboards just hit the right spot for a mesmerising evolution, when the bass winds its way in, you could convince yourself it had been there all the time, especially when, in a rather inspired way, it winds itself around the keyboard lines. Just when the bassist starts to run out of ideas, we get some nice percussive stuff with washes of organ that drive to a really tribal kind of thing that I would really like to hear developed, but instead peters out somewhat.

"Pulse" fails to convince with the detuned keyboard sound, but someone tweaked the drum mics nicely for a little piece that certainly sounds unusual, without much of a pulse, it has to be said, but maintains enough tension throughout for you to be able to feel your own pulse.

"Khan El Khali" Maintains the tension - and is a lot more interesting. The engineer really seems to be getting the magic dust out with this track, as the production has a nice clarity to it that highlights the timbre of the synthesisers, and blends the percussion nicely. It's just a pity no-one on the team had perfect pitch, as once again, intonation is dodgy - this time on the guitar. When the bass enters, the mood is, sadly, spoiled, as it meanders aimlessly trying to find a groove without success. The drumming is impressively together throughout, though, so as psychedelic wallpaper, this works, if you can just ignore the noodling.

Next up is "Malesch", which begins by conjouring a Beduoin market (at least, it does to me!), with more Middle Eastern intonations (to these jaded Western ears at least). We're getting slightly into deja vu territory, however, as the floaty synthy start leads into gentle percussion, then some guitar fiddling, next some uncertain bass, the percussion builds, the synths grow in intensity, with organ textures growing out of the mix - very familiar, yet pleasing enough. The piece slowly builds, and I am reminded of the Ozric Tentacles - especially with the bass player they had before Roly, who couldn't hold a bass line either - although without Ed Wynne...

Rücksturz is more convincing generally, with strong guitar melodies and real direction... and one heck of an abrupt ending.

Oddly, there are a lot of flavours of "You" by Gong throught - even though this album predates the former by 2 years. What this album lacks that "You" excels in, however, is a clear vision in the direction and superlative playing skills combining to make a great team effort and music of real distinction. There are times when it comes close, and sonically, there is much to like.

Musically, however, "Malesch" is only just above garage band standard - which is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you've heard "Tips Zum Selbstmorden" by Necronomicon, which is rough and constantly on the edge of losing it but always reveals more surprises in direction and invention. "Malesch" is more like the polar opposite. Surprises are few and far between, and, as a complete band, they never seem to find their groove properly although there are some quite long moments which gel very nicely - usually when none of the rather amateurish guitarists are playing...

An interesting album, but if you're just getting into Krautrock, you'd be better off exploring Amon Duul II's phenomenal output. Not an awful lot of progging going on here - the music rarely progresses and lacks real compositional elements; it rather jams along - but good, though.

Certif1ed | 3/5 |


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