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4 stars Their first album and also their best.The music is totally psychedelic with a lot of electronic involvements mixed with some Arabian influences.The whole album is weared by a strong Hammond organ sound.Effects popping in and out from nowhere. Each track sounds different,surprising and highly adventurious.An excellent cast with renowned musicians as Michael Hoenig,Lutz Ulbrich and as guest Peter Michael Hamel on Hammond.
Report this review (#21630)
Posted Friday, January 30, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars This Berlin outfit gained legendary status on the basis of their only three historic releases, which is few compared with ART, PV, ADII, TD, KW, or Can. Indeed many musos went through AF before joining ART, TD or Guru and others.. For diverse reasons, AF , formed back in 67, will not find the way to record an album until late 71(which doesn't make them pioneers in terms of early-ness), but by that time, they had acquired a solid experience playing in psych-jam rock, but often twiddling with electronic music

Although Malesch has an undeserved aura as one of the first albums exploring the fusion of rock and world music (this is much reinforced through the suggestive and exotic gatefold artworks), it retains much of their longtime passion, experimental jams on Floydish themes and cosmic soundscapes, much like the opening You Play For Us Today, or the wild guitar effects of Sahara City, bordering free jazz-improvs. The ethnic parts are mostly recordings that serve to separate the tracks, like the Imam-prayer-calls opening and closings of Sahara City or the Muezzin's chant closing the Khan track. Keyboardwise, we're dealing mainly with Hoenig's synths and electronic devices, but he's doubled up by Peter Hamel on organ on some tracks.

Much more to the point are the wild electronic effects opening Ala Tul (the track retaining a good Floydian soundscape) or Pulse, a strange electronic buzzing , first pulsing, then becoming like a pesky mosquito, haunting you, before guitars and drums intervenes and slowly driving us in the lengthy Khan El Khalili, where we get lost in the meanders of AF's dreams. The fantastic title tracks gives us another 8 blasting minutes of the same, while the closing Ruckstrurz is giving us an unusual and atypical rocky goodbye and an abrupt stop not resembling the album.

While I wouldn't call this album a remake of Floyd's Astronomy Domine, Set The Controls To The Heart Of The Sun, Saucerful of Secrets or Interstellar Overdrive (there is much of that in the music), because there is so much more than Floyd. Really essential for the electronic touches, although we are also a far cry from TD's best experiments, Malesh is iconic in Krautrock, although its ethnic reputation might be a bit usurped. BTW: Along with Embryo, AF will be one of three groups asked to play for the Olympiads of Munich late that summer.

Report this review (#21631)
Posted Thursday, February 5, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Absolutely stunning 70's Krautrock masterpiece with some pretty tripped out psychy moments. "Malesch" uniquely delivers a heavy space driven but middle Eastern influenced music juxtaposed with extended guitar solos and mesmerizing atmospheres. "Malesch" combines various recorded psychy sound effect and tape effects with extended jams and free flowing musical expressions. Once again a young Michael Hoenig performs his pattented array of electronic devices throughout. A truely magical little recording which I would recommend to all lovers of the ol' progressive space things. But be warned, your mothers will likely not be as pleased with this albumas you will be.
Report this review (#21632)
Posted Wednesday, March 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
Steve Hegede
5 stars 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.
Report this review (#21633)
Posted Sunday, March 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Having generated a cult following for years, since the late 60s, it was surprising that this relevant krautrock act had taken so long before they recorded and released their debut album; but again, better late than never. Agitation Free created an excellent first album, full of ethnic vibrations and exotic magic, which appears perfectly combined with the hard rocking guitar riffing and electric keyboard psychedelic effects, mandatory elements in the kraut context. Before the band achieved their first recording contract, they took a trip to Morocco, something that they seemed particularly interested in documenting and manifesting all throughout the repertoire. By then Agitation Free had a distinct sound based on the musicians' finesse, which would always show above the wall of psychedelic, blues-tinged noise that stands as a signature pattern of krautrock: their rocking jams always bore a certain magical aura, that made their music ethereal, besides, of course, energetic and trippy. It is not dueling as much as complementing what both guitarists (Ulbrich and Schwenke) recurrently do, while the organ parts create an ethereal wall of sound, confidently flowing in the background; the rhythm section uses lots of exotic cadences (plus the use of marimba) in order to keep on par with the ethnic stuff and, simultaneously, to found a solid pace for the other musicians' jamming. Bassist Gunther is a very skillful in his role (arguably, the most gifted musician in this combo), displaying some intricate, powerful lines that, at times, assume a prominent role in the mix - for example, 'Sahara City'. The opening track 'You Play for us Today' sounds really intense without getting overtly aggressive: 'Khan El Khalili' and the namesake track are the most energetic numbers in the album, but let's keep in mind that these guys' main musical concern is to lay out ethereal ambiences and sonic layers, instead of merely creating defying, explosive sonic electric storms (something that Ash Ra Temple or Guru Guru do happily and unabashedly). 'Pulse' is an amazing jam that sees AF absorbing influences from their fellow countrymen Can and Tangerine Dream, while 'Ala Tull' displays lots of percussive stuff on the frontline. 'Rucksturz' is the shortest track: it closes the album with a recognizable line, something like a tender epilogue. A great album this is, indeed: "Melesch" is one of the definitive cornerstones of kraut.
Report this review (#21634)
Posted Friday, March 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
Carl floyd fan
5 stars This is a very good cd with many influences, from middle eastern to space to psych. The over all tone is very easy going but there are def. mood swings that one can expect from any prog album. There are moments of chaos, randomness and beauty, but they all add up to an amazing, orignal album that is a must have for any prog fan. 4.75 stars.
Report this review (#21635)
Posted Friday, May 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars A terribly underrated album. The music is so ambitious and fantastically executed that you can't ignore it. I don't want to put this album in any categories; I can only say that it is a dynamic mix of various influences. From eastern Indian raga, Egyptian's music harmonies to bluesy, free form rock and "cosmic" music. All the compositions are purely instrumental, long enough to feature progressive and complex arrangements. A psych rock lead by very rhythmical, catchy, melodic spacey guitar lines is mixed to imaginative electric organ sections and to a combination of drums / percussions parts. All the ingredients are enveloped to create something unique. Not a lot of rock bands can provide so many innovative, experimental rock pictures in one album. Among a few others, this album contributes to invent, to expand the best music offered by the most progressive orientated prog bands. The essence of the music is freedom, imagination, delivering an exquisite taste for inspired, perpetual psychedelic jams.
Report this review (#39339)
Posted Wednesday, July 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
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.

Report this review (#48013)
Posted Friday, September 23, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars First album from this major german band, released in 1972. The eastern influence has been greatly exaggerated by critics. It actually consists of few sound effects between the pieces, evocative of the East. This influence was due to some touring the band did in the East, especially Egypt, before recording Malesh. But it's enough to create this delightful oriental atmosphere.

The music can be better described as highly efficient spacerock, featuring a square and powerful rhythmic section, experimental synthe and acid guitar reminiscent of US psyche.

"Malesh" is the most accomplished tune, with its majestic progression. "Rücksturz", the last one, features an highly emotional and intense guitar solo with a beautiful melody.

Sound quality is excellent and if you're into CD, better choose the old Spalax version than the "Garden of delights" one which features thinner low and less dynamic.

A big classic of german prog.

Report this review (#74695)
Posted Wednesday, April 12, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I totally love the early krautrock style, with spacy.psychedelic guitar jam's that builds up from slow ambient waves of electronics and finally erupts in more rocking extended jamming. And this debut from Agitation Free fits right in with the best of what Krautrock has to offer.

Malesch is not as heavy and trippy as Amon Düül II, or Guru Guru, and it is not as predominantly synthetic as Tangerine Dream became, but sits safely somewhere in the middle of what was going on in Germany in the early 70's. Influences from mentioned bands and also Pink Floyd, and other early psychedelic bands are incorporated in their unique soundscapes.

Favourite songs are Khan El Khalili, You Play For Us Today, The titl track Malesch and the closing Rücksturz, but really no bad songs on this album, but like most music you must like it to enjoy it.

Very good debut from one of the sound-defining bands of early krautrock.

Report this review (#95407)
Posted Sunday, October 22, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars All that i should said have been said before, great album, good for beginners, the arab influences are very strong,with some psych jams and influences of blues, every song in the album is very good, my favorites are Malesch, Rücksturz and Khan El Khalili. Highly Recommended!
Report this review (#103538)
Posted Monday, December 18, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars Altough Krautrock isn't exactly my cup of tea I have surprised myself with finding it quite accessible where others have not. Except for Amon Düül II I'm not a fan but I can understand why someone would like Can and Faust.

So, one day at the local record store I thought that this album could be worth the listen. I had only heard praise of it before so I bought it. After a few listenings I am sorry to say that it was a mistake buying it, this is for me little more than eastern-tinged Krautrock noodling. It's more some kind of a soundscape than actual music.

My copy of this barely has a track list and that only makes it even harder for me to follow it. It's a reissue by Garden of Delights but I can't say that it is delightful.

Report this review (#107598)
Posted Monday, January 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars I love how melodic and atmospheric this record is.They used little snippets of things they had recorded on their recent trip to Egypt and added them to the beginning of some songs, to act as dividers between songs.

"You Play For Us Today" takes awhile to get going like some of the other songs here. It features layers of keyboards with guitar sounds scattered throughout, but it's the last 2 minutes where the guitar really takes it up a notch as we are treated to some beautiful guitar melodies. "Sahara City" opens with an Eastern sound that is over quickly as we get outbreaks of guitar and drums and noises for the next 5 minutes. Included in this soundscape are silent moments as well as a haunting atmosphere at times. There is no flow at all until 5 1/2 minutes in when the guitar and drums come to the fore and we are treated to some of the best music on this record during the last 2 minutes of this song.

"Ala Tul" features some good drum work as the organ and bass come in, but it's the percussion that steals the show on this song. "Pulse" sounds like someone left the power on and it's pulsating as the guitar and drums come in on this hypnotic tune. "Khan El Khalili" has this low sounding synth and a vocal melody as the drums come and go, things settle down as the guitar comes in and it sounds fantastic with the drums. "Malesch" is a song that builds with the focus on the bass, drums and guitar. "Rucksturz" is way too short, as it just seems to be hitting it's stride with some amazing melodic guitar and drums when it's over.

I love this record because it's such a trip.

Report this review (#107633)
Posted Monday, January 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Here is one of the best trips you can set on just sitting down listening to your stereo. In 1972 the Agitation Free managed to turn their Middle-East experiences into music, thus creating the ultimate "on the road" krautrock album. Listening to the tracks that make up this unique experience, you get the impression to cross the desert or to be lost inside a Suq (the oriental street bazar), to enter the most intimate sides of the Kasba or to camp together with a nomade tribe among the dunes of the Sahara. The album finds its unity and strength in the alternance of free form spacey improvisation and well structured more rhytmical pieces. I really think that the album should be considered as a whole, also noticing how tracks flow into each other making it difficult to tell them apart, but the several titles allow to recognise and point out the outstanding moments in this record, which are many. I really like the step-by-step climax of "You play for us today", as well as the long spacey, ethereal epic of "Sahara City", which really reminds me of Atem-era Tangerine Dream. The band can make a very intelligent use of minimalism throughout the album, especially in "Ala Tul", with its iterative keyboard patterns, and "Pulse", a track lost somewhere between Klaus Schulze and early Kraftwerk (or Seesselberg), but with a lighter and more dynamic attitude. The production is very good: just listen how electronics, live street recordings and ethnic percussions can flow into each other in a natural way, or the mastery in using the echo effect in "Khan el Khalili" also to create rhytmic passages. In the end, the short "Rücksturz" stands out as a sort of "proto-new-wave" anthem allowing Agitation Free's imaginary caravan to end up their trip somewhere in between your soul and faraway lands.
Report this review (#135438)
Posted Thursday, August 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is music that is played in such a way that it 'feels' great. It grooves. It is atmospheric. It is spacey. It is hypnotic. The production is superb (especially for the time). It is a kind of ethnic/world music influenced space rock with electronic dimensions (drones and pulses).

The opening track - 'You Play for Us Today' begins with a drone, then adds bass guitar, then adds hypnotic percussion a la 'Set The Controls....' or 'Careful with that Axe Eugene' Pink Floyd, then adds an eastern sounding organ melody. Things become more fraught with percussion accents and the addition of electric guitar - the whole tracks gets busier and more aggressive but still keeps that hypnotic vibe - it builds in intensity till its end. 5/5

Sahara City' starts like an ethnomusicological field recording of a dance - suddenly we are swept into a floating electronic sandstorm pulsing and intoxicating - a music glowing with desert heat - things get free-form and hallucinogenic until we get into a kind of ticking pattern which galvanizes the band into a heavy jam. 4/5

'Ala Tul' begins with some pretty abstract and grating sounding electronic timbres - sounds like ring modulation is used - phased organ is introduced with sprinkles of percussion. Then at 1.20 the groove has started - overlaid with cyclical organ patterns a la Terry Riley - amazing! It continues to build adding marimba patterns which come to the fore and end the track on their own. 5/5

'Pulse' begins with an undulating analogue drone, which through the addition of organ and some percussion and guitar starts to turn into an atonal sequencer pattern. 3/5

'Khan El Khalili' - a drone along with processed wailing vocals to which is added halting percussion begins the track - at about 2.15 a delay driven mellow drum pattern is added and a clavinet-sounding cyclical keyboard part. At 3.05 the bass/drums come together to create a brilliant tripped out groove with some bluesy electric guitar - a rather loud bit of field recording of a Persian singer disturbs the vibe in a jarring way and segues us into the next track. 4/5

'Malesch' (the title track) 5/5 - again Terry Riley like organ/keyboard figurations across a drone, with a 6/8 groove layered underneath, starts quiet and builds into a wonderful mellow groove. At about 5.20 the meter changes taking us into another groove which builds and builds until a cloud of white noise washes in to take us to ....

the final track 'Rucksturz' - a short musical epilogue - starting with a delicate cyclical electric guitar pattern the track erupts into a slow forceful rocking finale which ends suddenly. (4/5)

I believe 'Malesch' shares a lot of the stylistic traits of classic space rock, especially Pompei era Floyd - however, in a way Agitation Free pull it off better than the Floyd in terms of sheer musicianship. Agitation Free combine these space rock drones and slow tripped out grooves with influences from world music and early minimalism, especially Terry Riley - which for me is also no bad thing.... You will not walk away from listening to this album humming melodies - the emphasis is on the feel and atmosphere of the pieces and the masterful ability of the band to build up (usually) or break down levels of intensity throughout the course of tracks.

Report this review (#173623)
Posted Wednesday, June 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Malesch is an album that really takes to get going, but once you get the concept it becomes a very enjoyable record, in fact I like it more every time I listen to it. Malesch is full with arabic sounds, very fluent drums, and an awesome keyboard for not mentioning the mind-blowing guitar solos. The album reaches a supreme state that makes you comfortable, wrapping you on an interstellar ambient. It is worth spending time only listening to this.

If you like spatial trips you are going to love it, is one of these perfect albums where all you have to do is closing your eyes and get ready to go.

5 stars

Report this review (#185138)
Posted Thursday, October 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of my absolute favorite albums of all time. Quite a talented group of musicians! You won't find solos or traditional song structures here; the music is VERY cohesive and the individual instruments combine to create a piece of art that is much larger than the sum of its parts. It is this integrated whole that one has to hear (listen to the WHOLE album) in order to fully appreciate the music, which feels just like a breathing, naturally flowing essence that has its own continuity beyond temporal relations. Holds up to many repeated listens, and works well for active listening (so much creativity and nuance) as well as for mood music. A doorway to the spiritual for me. The music is very well put together; it is incredibly well-played, structured and orchestrated. Themes aren't repeated but flow seamlessly through each other; the music is always in flux. It transitions through more accessible/immediate and experimental zones with fluid ease and a sound that is very melodic, rhythmic, ambient, dynamic, nuanced and varied. There is some great layering going on here, and great percussive textures, drones, melody, and interplay.

The entirety of the album is pervaded by a slight middle eastern ethnic influence that is more explicitly referenced by a variety of interesting recordings from their trip/tour to Egypt that appear to varying effects, degrees and qualities as bookends for the tracks. These recordings are fused very well with the songs, which already flow very well into one another. The music is entirely instrumental and stays entirely interesting; vocals aren't missed or to be desired. In fact the Arabic vocal samples between the tracks ground the music quite nicely, as they serve the function of vocals in establishing a human tone, though they do not interrupt the music and, being in a foreign language, ground the music (along with the other field recordings of music and assorted sounds) in a sense of otherworldliness, one that is at once slightly psychedelic or exotic and very candid, earnest and down to earth (there is no semblance of exotic affectation or superfice/glamor). This music is very grounded, yet it is mysterious, exploratory, expansive, meditative, trance inducing, psychedelic, and powerful.

As far as genre is concerned, the music of Agitation Free on 'Malesch' is a mixture of psychedelic, experimental krautrock with elements of spaced-out ambient, experimental electronic, and raga-like drone. Their music for the most part consists of organ-patterned pulses; seamless psychedelic cosmic musical textures with intricate musicianship and musical variety; hard, driving rock similar to Amon Duul II or Guru Guru but more compelling cohesive; jamming that occasionally invokes the interplay and styles of Garcia, Weir and Lesh of the Grateful Dead; and electronic experimentation. Their music features frequently great musical interplay and great playing, great textures, melodies and grooves. Many of their songs have a trance-inducing psychedelic feel and a very bold sound. This music is densely packed with creative ideas and musicianship. As an album, the songs blend together to make an almost seamlessly flowing and uninterrupted musical journey. Compare loosely to bands like Ash Ra Tempel, Amon Duul II, Brainticket, Popol Vuh, Kalacakra, Between, Dom, Guru Guru, Gila, Yatha Sidhra and, also, with The Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers for their dynamic interplay and preference for a cohesive, jam-based aesthetic. I compare the quality of their musical interplay and playing quite favorably to the best of the Grateful Dead's live output (e.g., L&G, TGD: Fillmore East 1971).

While some may dislike the experimental, ambient parts of this album (e.g. the build-up in "Sahara City", and the entirety of "Pulse"), for me the ambient is an integral counterpoint to the more pointed moments, establishes a mood and a context, and lets the music really sit and get into your subconscious, in true Krautrock fashion. I for one love the development on "Sahara City".

Standout tracks: "You Play for Us Today", "Sahara City", "Ala Tul", "Khan El Khalili", and "Malesch" (incidentally, my first two favorites were "Rücksturz" and "Pulse", the only other tracks on the album!). So seriously guys, the entirety of this album is [%*!#]ing brilliant.

This is one of the albums that has profoundly changed my musical world, in the company of Brainticket's "'Psychonaut'", Asia Minor's "Between Flesh and Divine", Can's "Future Days", Santana's "Caravanserai", Jeff Buckley's "Grace", Popol Vuh's "Hosianna Mantra", Jan Dukes de Grey's "Mice and Rats in the Loft", Rush's "Moving Pictures"...).

I personally favor this one much over their follow-up "2nd", which is still a beautiful, graceful, masterful work and a highlight (one of very many) of the Krautrock genre!

The word for this one is GRACE.

5 stars, definitely.

Report this review (#214697)
Posted Sunday, May 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars AGITATION FREE's debut was a relative late-commer to a German progressive rock scene, appearing in 1972, after the luminaries of Krautrock (CAN, AMON DUUL II, FAUST, NEU!, GURU GURU...) had already released their remarkable early albums. Therefore, "Malesch" is often overlooked among Kraut-fans. What an unjustice!

This is a fine example of "Kosmische muzik" that practically consists of one lengthy instrumental improvisational jam, interspersed with sound effects of Mid-East travelling (plane noise, Arabic announcements and chants...) experiences. Throbbing bass by M. Gunther is amazing as almost a lead instrument, while percussion and keyboard work gives a plenty of dreamy, space-rock atmosphere. The closer "Rucksturz" rocks heavy with excellent and melodic (although heavily fuzzed) sound of electric guitar.

"Malesch" should be reconsidered and included in the first league of Krautrock albums, along with "Faust (clear vinyl)", "Tago Mago", "Yeti", "Kanguru", or "Hallogallo". Essential for any Krautrock, Psychedelic or Space-rock collection.


P.A. RATING: 4/5

Report this review (#268452)
Posted Friday, February 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars Can there be a thing such as a pleasant kraut album? Agitation Free certainly gives it a shot on their debut. Where it concerns kraut, this album is sure fun and accessible, with smooth psychedelic jams and nice touches of Eastern music.

One of the original aspects is the integration of samples, if I may use that term. The band had recorded of few bits and pieces of music while on a trip in Egypt and blended them in with their own songs. The integration isn't as seamless as on Pink Floyd albums but it adds an interesting angle. Sahara City is a fine example. I generally miss a bit of edge to this album, but on tracks like the opener You Play For Us Today they sure build up some intensity.

However, at no point does this band really shine and sparkle. Everything remains fairly standard and maybe even a bit formulaic, for kraut standards at least. Ala Tul has an interesting groove and twirling psychedelic organs but fails to engage me emotionally. Also the experimental Pulse and the rather dull jams of Khan El Khalili and Malesch don't rise above average. Rücksturz is a nice closer with good guitar harmonies and a certain 1970 Pink Floyd mood.

While it can serve as a good introduction to krautrock, this albums leaves a seasoned krautonaut like me rather indifferent. Especially for an album from 1972 it is pretty safe and predictable and won't present anything Amon Düül II or Guru Guru didn't have on offer. Nice album but hardly anything else but plain good.

Report this review (#282485)
Posted Tuesday, May 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars The debut album from this pretty strange German band shows them from a more etno Arabic side. Or perhaps Northern African side. The album, and the albums band career of Agitation Free, starts with an Arabic prayer and then continues as a jam with the hammond organ and the electric guitars jamming over a beat laid down by the bass and the drums. This is Krautrock, but not Krautrock as we knows it.

Most of this album is pretty hypnotic and deeply mired in a mix of psychedelic avant-garde, jazz and Arabic folk music. The music is so coherent throughout that it is probably a concept album. I have not checked out if this is true or not, though. Most of the tracks starts with one instrument and then slowly builds up to fierce duels between the Hammond organ & the guitar. That makes this album pretty hypnotic.

The quality of the music is great throughout though. The best track is the rather catchy Ala Tul. The title track too is excellent. Behind this wall of hammonds and guitars, the subtleties of the music becomes pretty clear for those willing to give this album some time. I am not a big fan of Krautrock, but I am a fan of this very untypical Krautrock album. Hence my stars.

4 stars

Report this review (#285661)
Posted Wednesday, June 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Something about this album creates this pleasant aura that really stimulates the mind, whether you're focusing in on the music or not. Agitation Free makes it a team effort here as they dabble more with textures and experiences rather than riffs, solos, epics and lyrical allegory (although there are a few guitar solos here).

Every instrument is present to where you notice, but none overly dominate. Instrumental highlights include the bass figure opening ''You Play For Us Today'', the organ textures in ''Ala Tul'', the mallet percussion closing of the same track, the haunting atmosphere of ''Pulse'', the tempo spike in the title track and the final closing guitar solo. Most of the tunes are essentially psychedelic jams, but these jams are the kind to send the listener in a trance and not to sleep.

The liner notes of the CD remaster tell stories of the band fusing an Eastern sound into their music after a trip to various Middle Eastern countries like Cyprus and Egypt. The remaster also includes a fifteen minute jam session featuring their trademark sound live, a few little electronic dabbles and a rendition of "Rucksturz".

MALESCH is not what I call an outstanding, mind-blowing piece of art, but it's not far off. It has this quality of where you put it on and your mind is lost in the soundscapes they create. MALESCH is a safer, warmer album for progsters than another Krautrock cornerstone in TAGO MAGO (from CAN). If you hated TAGO MAGO, MALESCH is a different story and might make you look at Krautrock in a different way.

Report this review (#306618)
Posted Monday, October 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars Two years before CAMEL, a German band creates a sonic travel to the Sahara desert, and it's remarkable that the athmospheres of Malesh are similar to those of Mirage. Of course the two bands and their music are very different, but the spirit of the desert seems to have touched them in a similar way.

"You Play For Us Today" is opened by voices, then the bass plays a sort of melody over a Floydian keyboard. Effectively the north-african dissonances of the keyboard with chords passing from major to minor and vice-versa are the same of the early Wright's works. Also the drums and the guitar chords have a lot of the Floyd's debut. Add to this the usual krautrock acid jamming and our voyage is started. At the end of the track, suddenly the desert turns into space, but it's just a spacey moment before the second track "Sahara City" brings us in a Saharian market.

What's the relationship between the ethnic opening and the spacey sounds that come after? Probably the wilderness of the dunes and the open spaces are not too different from the cold starry space. This tracks moves from psychedelic to electronic and back and this makes it a bit difficult to follow. It requires more listens before one can think to have caught its sense. The last three miutes of jamming are not bad.

"Ala Tul" begins with electronic noises, then a major kyaboard's chord appears from behind. This is the start of a progressive rock moment. What comes is a bass riff over a repetitive keyboard and a sort of funky drumming. The keyboard chord goes minor and now it's like a psychedelic version of Lady Fantasy (keeping in mind that Lady Fantasy was still to be written actually). The finale is based on percussions and goes back to ethnic.

"Pulse" is like a big fly buzzing around your ears in the heat of the desert's afternoon. Guitar and drums give this noise a musical shape. Experimental but not too much.

"Khan El Khalili" is very evocative. All the heat of the desert and the apparent quietness are sumoned by the bass keyboard chords until a guitar harping gives it a structure. At this point the bass first, then the guitar transform it in a bluesy instrumental, but the rhythm is the one that is caleed "Rajaz" by the Tuaregs, This is the album's highlight.

The title track "Malesh" is opened by a "Muezzin" singing. When he stops, the keyboard arrives very similar to Ala Tul abd the guitar adds some colour with full chords. The undulating pace is given by the bass. It's another good track, easy enough to be appreciated by non-krautrock fans, too. I think I can call it a blues.

The album is closed by a short track: "Rucksturz" (Smooth Fall). The only defect of this song is that it lasts for just a bit more than two minutes, but it's so good that it always leaves me wishing more, also because of its sudden end.

Calling it masterpiece is a bit too much, but this is an excellent album that can be useful for people who wants to know what the Krautrock is about without being misleaded by the acid trips of bands like Amon Duul.

Report this review (#398930)
Posted Saturday, February 12, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars 1972 was an auspicious year for progressive music and, although they had formed five years earlier, it wasn't until that year that Agitation Free released their first album. ''Malesch'' was influenced by the band's journeys in Egypt and it's like a strange psychedelic artefact, a passageway into the memories and images of the band's travels. While it includes intermittent sound effects intended to reflect their physical journeys, the album also seems to point to Agitation Free's reluctance to go anywhere melodically.

''You Play For Us Today'' is like a slow, brooding cosmic dance that's bathed in a powerful bass riff, while ''Sahara City'' is a complex of seemingly directionless noodling, as dark and still as the great granite sarcophagi that house the mummified remains of the Apis bulls. There's a brief shift in tempo towards the end and from this emerges ''Ala Tul'', Arabic for ''straight ahead'', a lively piece that swells and expands with a sumptuous texture of vibrating organ and polyrhythmic percussion. In contrast to this is ''Pulse'', another largely formless piece that begins mysteriously and builds gradually. It features an incessant sound effect that sounds like a demented bottlebee buzzing around an echo chamber. The musical snapshot of the bazaar in Cairo ''Khan El Khalili'' sounds like a psychedelic lament and this is followed by the title-track, arguably the album's key track. The album concludes with the catchy riff of ''Rucksturz'', an unusually bright and energetic foray into the mainstream that seems at odds with the foregoing tracks.

All in all ''Malesch'' has a fairly downbeat aura that relies on abstract, though fairly accessible, sound sculptures and that accessibility probably makes the album a good point of entry for newcomers to this style of music.

Report this review (#409050)
Posted Monday, February 28, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Agitation Free had apparently gone on a tour through Cyprus, Greece and Egypt before recording this album, which explains the occasional Middle Eastern-tinged sample they add here and there to the music, but at their core they are a very capable Krautrock band, with the music ranging from synthesiser-dominated cosmic calm to full band freakouts. Beginning with the band cajoled by a pilot into performing on You Play For Us Now and ending with the brief Rucksturz (whose ending I find is rather abrupt), the band stay in a psychedelic mode throughout the album. It's all good stuff, and sufficiently diverting that I'd say it's one of the better freakout albums to come out from the Krautrock scene.
Report this review (#498776)
Posted Saturday, August 6, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Agitation Free never quite managed to transcend their era like many of the better known Krautrock bands. But for a second-division outfit they certainly provide a blast from someone's lysergic past (not an old square like me, alas).

The group would eventually distinguish itself as one of Germany's premier jam bands, but their debut album is, for all its otherworldly charm, a bit unfocused. There's an attractive but undisciplined everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to composition and structure here that hasn't aged particularly well, a combination of psychedelic guitar noodling, musique concrete, electronic experimentation, and documentary sound samples from the back alleys of Cairo, Beirut, and Damascus.

The same Arabian-style ragas were of course the bread and butter of every underground band on Earth in the early 1970s. But these guys at least made a real effort to understand their material, travelling all over the Near East in search of inspiration (cultural and chemical, one suspects), before entering the recording studio.

That integrity of purpose gives the finished album its unique aura. And despite the emphasis (innovative, at the time) on Third World sound sources the music remains sehr kosmische, flowing smoothly from one exotic destination to the next until the rather abrupt ending to the energetic curtain closer "Rücksturz", perhaps intended as the musical equivalent of an old television cliff hanger (...tune in next week!)

The album title is apparently a common Egyptian expression meaning, very roughly: It's Cool Man...Stuff Happens, Ya Know? (or something like that). It's a perfect term for this always intriguing but often messy first effort by one of Krautrock's unsung, underachieving ensembles.

Report this review (#765691)
Posted Wednesday, June 6, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Agitation Free - Malesch

No melodies, no song-writing, no lyrical themes - yet this album is filled with nice minimalistic, experimental and atmospheric spacey krautrock. Agitation Free adopted an Eastern or perhaps Egyptian style, which becomes appearant when you look at the art work. The recent vinyl reprint I got from my birtday is wel packaged with foto's and information about the band.

Agitation Free gets its sound with droning moogs, rhythm and blues influences and atmospheric interplay between its members. Some moments are quite mystifying and the record has a sort of continuality that won't be revealed if you listen single songs of the record. The band makes a professional impression and the recording is actually quite good, with a warm yet abstract sound and well pitched instruments. The last track 'Rcuksturz' works a short outbreak of energy, a good ending for this otherwise slowly en gently evolving album.

Conclusion. Interesting record for those who like atmospheric progressive music and ofcourse fans of krautrock and spacerock. I'll give it the big three and a halve stars.

Report this review (#877781)
Posted Tuesday, December 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars A unique and interesting mix of Krautrock, heavy-psych, progressive electronic and Middle Eastern percussion taking us on a mystical desert journey that has been referred to as an unintentional concept album where all the songs flow perfectly into one another. After many listens to this I would have to agree with that conclusion. No vocals whatsoever on this one.

The interplay between the instruments is the beauty of this release in that all instruments play an important part to the overall sound but are delegated to certain roles in the larger piece that come and go at precisely the right time. The drony organ often serves as the backbone while accompanied by either rock drumming or bellydance type percussion with bluesy guitars and sometimes even a zither.

Very spacey, drony and psychedelic but at times can rock. Both highly unconventional yet accessible.

Report this review (#1073594)
Posted Thursday, November 7, 2013 | Review Permalink
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars East meets West on the debut Agitation Free LP `Malesch' from 1972, an album of exotic sounds and spacey atmospheres, as proposed by an improvisation based jam-band. Two identities, two musical sounds seemingly at odds with eachother instead become one unified whole, when it probably should sound very confused and conflicted. The band seamlessly blend eastern styles of the old world with space-rock and plodding Krautrock flavours of more modern eras, and the result is a collection of freeform psychedelic experiments full of mysticism and grooving rock passages. Of particular note throughout is future Tangerine Dream member Michael Hoenig's unearthly, atmospheric and restrained keyboard drones, although to be fair, four of the band members are credited to keyboards here!

There's a scuzzy, uneasy menace to album opener `You Play For Us Today', with splintering heavy psych electric guitar feedback that channels the late 60's Pink Floyd sound, alongside piercing upfront bass and droning maddening organ with an ethereal shimmering tone. `Sahara City' is more ambient and drifting, ethnic market place flavours introduced by acoustic hand percussion, cymbal rises and loopy electric guitar mangling from Jorg Schwenke in the manner of Syd Barrett's distinctive sound. The piece is full of meandering mystery, until it comes together in a shambling, nicely ragged acid-rock driving march in the final minutes, perhaps closer to Can. Burghard Rausch's drumming absolutely purrs on that one too. Searing electronic violations and repetitive hypnotic panning swirling organ permeates throughout `Ala Tul', with thick mumbling bass breaking through tribal percussion, the entire band working up a heady yet joyous intensity.

All the focus is on Michael Hoening's keyboards on the opener of the second side, `Pulse'. It's a bent sustained organ and wavering electronic drone with a maddening repulsive loop that plays over and over into infinity, likely to drive you to madness, brought on even sooner by relentless drum fills. Another droning synth hum pulses away in the background of `Khan El Khalilli', blanketing delirious sighing cries, skittering frantic drumming and chiming acid-folk acoustic guitars. There's a drawling bass plod from Michel Gunter that bursts through some meditative flute and lovely electric guitar soloing that takes flight, leaving the whole piece in a warm toasty haze. After opening with a chirping electronic loop, drums, bass and guitars seamlessly grow in confidence and tempo throughout the title track `Malesch', a never-ending pulsing Hammond organ joyfully noodling away, the whole band bringing a constant and infectious driving energy and whipping up a gentle fury. Sadly the album ends on a scorching rock track that only serves as an interlude at little over two minutes, but it does make for a memorable finale.

By the time their `Second' album came around, the band had abandoned most of the ethnic elements altogether, placing a greater emphasis on melodic, joyful electric guitar soloing and electronic experiments, which only makes this one all the more special. It's just as good, if rather different, to the follow-up, but both are essential chilled-out Krautrock works. It perhaps shares a similar searing spiritual ethnic flavour as the second half of Guru Guru's `Dance with the Flames' album, mixed with the expansive electronics of early Tangerine Dream, but there's always that thrilling sense of exploration and sonic freedom that the Krautrock bands are known for, and `Malesch' is simply beautiful, intoxicating music.

Four stars.

Report this review (#1292675)
Posted Friday, October 17, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars Agitation Free's debut album is a fairly celebrated krautrock statement on PA, often mentioning it's Egyptian flavorings peppered throughout. While I like this album, I'm not as impressed as many other reviewers on PA. My largest complaint about Malesch is that there is not enough jamming to be found. It seems that on most tracks you need to wait through several minutes of experimental atmospheres before the tasty jams begin. Then, once they get really grooving, they suddenly fade away or are interrupted by further soundscapes. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy some nice experimental freak-outs within songs, but only up to a point. After 3 to 4 minutes things really need to move on, in my opinion anyway. To sum it up, the psychedelic jams on Malesch are really good, but are interpolated with too many sound experiments, and are often too short. I feel Agitation Free really hit their stride with their follow up, 2nd, when they created a better balance between the music and the spaced-out atmospheres. 3.5 stars.
Report this review (#1419642)
Posted Monday, May 25, 2015 | Review Permalink

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