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Agitation Free - 2nd CD (album) cover

2ND

Agitation Free

 

Krautrock

3.83 | 187 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
3 stars AGITATION FREE formed all the way back in 1967 but didn't really find a unique niche in the Krautrock scene until the members found exotic ethnic influences through the group's travels throughout countries like Eygpt, Greece and Cyprus which led to the unique sound heard on the band's debut "Malesch." The album immediately stood out from the band's Krautrock contemporaries for its bold percussive drive augmented with psychedelic jams and progressive electronic influenced drones and spaced out timbres and tones. The group enjoyed a successful tour and has remained a well-known band because of the interesting fusion of ethnic sounds and the German Krautrock scene.

So cool was the debut that it is quite surprising that the band so radically changed its sound for the sophomore album uncreatively titled 2ND. While the psychedelic freeform jams and experimental Krautrock elements are still in abundance as are the electronica and drones, the Middle Eastern percussive drive had been completely dropped and instead replaced by a rather unimaginative standard rock drumming style and in the process makes 2ND sound a bit more generic than the 1st. Another big change was the replacement of guitarist Jörg Schwenke with Stefan Diez however the stylistic shift goes way beyond just a new member joining the ranks.

Due to the interest and exotic nature of "Malesch" which kept the band on the live circuit, the band had a difficult time finding the time to record 2ND but finally locked themselves away in the studio in July 1973. The band took a completely new approach on this one and focused more on spaced out jam sessions that implemented bluesy guitar riffs lazily flowing along with bass grooves and more standard rock percussion. While the keyboards and mellotrons are still around, they pretty much provide intros and other sections outside of the context of the main jamming sessions and therefore the album feels a lot less integrated than the previous one and without the strong percussive backbone that gave "Malesch" such an exotic feel, this one just seems a bit too free floaty for its own good.

Once again the tracks are completely instrumental with the sole exception of the ending track "Haunted Island" which contains the spoken word vocals of drummer Burghard Rautsch which narrates a tale of what the title suggests. 2ND truly resonates in the heady psychedelic era of Krautrock but for some reason this album doesn't connect with me as much as it does with others. I exponentially prefer the debut release "Malesch" and when it comes to this rather Can inspired groovy form of Krautrock, AGITATION FREE seem a bit amateurish on 2ND. For all its trippiness, the album seems to lose some of its psychedelic affect by the rather standard bluesy rock jamming and the rather uninventive drumming while the rock parts are hampered by the rather unfocused electronic experimentation. It just doesn't sound very dynamic despite nothing resonating as overtly bad.

Personally this one just sounds like a few steps down. The debut featured complex chord progressions that developed into pleasing melodies whereas 2ND just sort of jams along aimlessly with boring blues scales and nonchalant grooves and percussive drive. While the album received critical acclaim during its release and has remained popular in cult circles, the album failed to sell well and the band folded in 1974 although they would reform in 1998. Perhaps the closest track that matches "Malesch" material is the nine minute "A Quiet Walk" which features more experimental touches aside from the predictable jamming and even includes a more dynamic percussive drive not quite adopting the ethnic influences of its predecessor but has the most interesting guitar workouts as it includes not only an electric guitar but also a 12-string acoustic along with the more exotic sounds of a bouzouki.

I've owned both AGITATION FREE albums for many years and i've tried to give this one a fair chance on many occasions as most of the time albums that don't hit me at first have to grow on me, but after every single listen i can only think about how much more i love "Malesch" and during the playtime of 2ND i just sit there and rearrange the album in my own mind to make it interesting. I really don't understand why so many find this album to be so innovative. There were literally many dozens of more interesting Kraut bands cranking out far superior material. After many years of giving this a chance, i have concluded that it's just not an album that deserves all the praise that is heaped upon it. While not outright bad, it's a piss poor followup to one of Kraut's most innovative albums of the early 1970s. For yours truly this one is a major disappointment and to my ears this is the epitome of an AGITATION SPREE.

siLLy puPPy | 3/5 |

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