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Agitation Free - River Of Return CD (album) cover

RIVER OF RETURN

Agitation Free

 

Krautrock

3.25 | 27 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Attempting a comeback after 25 years can be a risky venture, especially for an aging band so closely tied to a vanished zeitgeist, in this case the restless counterculture of early 1970s Germany. But Agitation Free got it exactly right for their improbable late '90s reunion, striking an ideal balance between nostalgia and change.

The classic AF lineup last heard in 1974 was still intact, minus keyboard guru Michael Hoenig, who at the time was occupied with crummy Hollywood soundtrack commissions, emulating his idols in Tangerine Dream. His absence would force the remaining players to pursue a bigger, brighter sound, far removed from the band's Krautrock roots but entirely appropriate for the more streamlined musical climate of the 1990s. 'Accessible' can be a dirty word in Progressive Rock circles, but it works here, and the band's jammy instrumental vibe wasn't compromised in the slightest.

The title track opens the album on an unexpected (and very pretty) acoustic guitar phrase, courtesy of Gustl Lütjens. The added saxophone is another surprise, alerting listeners that the band was no longer living in the past. Or at least not entirely: some of that spacey early '70s DNA resurfaces in the awkwardly titled "She Sells Seashells at the Seashore", one of two cuts breaking the ten-minute threshold. The past is likewise present in "Nomads", a groovy dream of Arab caravans recalling the band's travels throughout the Near East before recording their first album in 1972.

Both tracks reference the same cosmic heritage, but without sounding at all retrograde. Ditto the climactic "177 Spectacular Sunrises", closing the album on a drifting meditative note consistent with the band's Krautrock origins, but updated to the uncertain end of a turbulent millennium.

It's too bad that perfectly timed curtain was then spoiled by an atypical bonus track: the hard-rocking encore "Keep On": not a bad song, but all-too conventional after the uncanny voyage preceding it.

The reformation was brief, and another decade would pass before the band was heard again (see: Shibuya Nights"). But if this ends up being the final Agitation Free studio album it'll be remembered as a worthwhile valedictory, especially for a group more than two decades away from home.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |

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