Wednesday, March 7, 2007


Dearest Vetrans of the Time Wars:

Y'know how sometimes you sort of 'forget' about a record or band for a moment...
Often they are the ones that help you get from point a to point b. The ones whose work helps to connect where you started and where you are now. When I first heard Magma in 8th grade I couldn't make any sense of it, but I saved the mix tape that contained that song (as well as "Fools Gold" by Spring, which after losing the track list I spent YEARS trying to figure out who the fuck that song was by) and every few years would dig it out and listen wondering if I could make sense of what was coming out of the speakers. Eventually I did make sense of what Christian Vander was trying to tell me, but it took time. I needed audio gateway drugs.
This post, however, is not about Magma (although I could ramble about that band for days) it's about the criminally un-hyped work of Agitation Free!

As many of you know, a few short years ago I was bordering on being completely obsessed with the unique flavor that was Deutschland Pink Floyds, esp the commune living variety. Today, while sitting on the couch digging through the archive on my laptop I remembered how much I have neglected some of those bands as I dug for even more and more obscure (and often worse) bands, recordings, etc. I think most of us in total fucking nerdland have this problem, as you dig you sometimes loose track of some of the steps along the way. You never forget the first stone you stepped on but you do lose contact with some of the other stones you step on from time to time. Agitation Free's "2nd" re-blew my mind today.

In Austin there was a lil' store by the name of 33 Degrees that I would attempt to get to as soon as I got to that fair city. It was fucking amazing and Sound on Sound stole a LOT of ideas from it. Probably the biggest idea that i borrowed from 33D was that everything was open; however, another idea that I yanked from their clutches (and some of you may not remember) was having separate prog, psych, and krautrock sections. One must rember that before our modern tymmes, before easy obscure-o file sharing and blog posting, you had zero fucking ways to hear the sounds of these records, which made this open product philosophy the most amazing concept I had seen in years. You must also remember that other than ordering a 30 dollar import CD from Forced Exposure, as NOBODY in Columbus was stocking 'em, you had NO way to hear anything new of this ilk. You could read review after review, typically only referencing other bands that you hadn't heard (yet) and hope that the reviewer knew his/her shit and was on point and order it, hoping for the best. I can't even imagine how hard it was to dig for and hear these jams pre-internet.
Anyway, what made going into 33D so amazing was basically that I could just walk inside, dig, put headphones on, and learn. I owe whomever was ordering for them a hundred handjobs, as they somehow had EXACTLY just what I was hunting to hear the sound of. Gawdamn I'm now way off track, as I am not here to eulogise (yup, they closed a few years later) 33D.

Upon one of my many voyages inside 33D I picked up the Garden of Delights CD re-issue of Agitation Free's "Malesch", based on the fact that it was on Garden (who had put out the XHOL re-issue that fucking split my head in half, shoving me down the path Tago Mago had led me to the gate of) and had a fucking pyramid on the cover. In case you are not aware of it: no one has ever made a bad record with a pyramid on the cover. Its just a fucking fact, dude.

Over the next couple weeks I read the liner notes over and over and just because fascinated by this band. The idea of a band going to Egypt and it playing some huge role in influencing the sound of the record they were about to work on is completely idealistic and romantic. The claim that the record I held in my hands was in fact just that was too hard not to add to the record (ie: whoa dude, rock mytholigy). Factor into this 'mythology' that I was just learning about all the hippie squats and communes of Europe that helped to feed and enable (what would become) my favorite artists to make music so far out and outside the realm of commercial viability (ie: underground music has existed since music itself). The idea of existing in this group setting basically as a means to play music constantly and that all their energy went into that was the most inspiring thing to me at the time and still fucking is. At the time I was living with 7-9 people in a shitty house (although we were increasing its shitty-ness tenfold on a daily basis through our various antics) and in my mind we were inches from being a house as a commune. Which is probably nowhere close to true, but I was always stoned and people were living in vans (ok not people, just BJ) behind our house so it definitely had that sort of vibe to it, more so than a typical 'punk house' does. Then again I lived with Lazer and was high more or less constantly, so maybe my memory is blurry.

Over the following months following that trip to 33D I hunted furiously to get every second of audio I could by Agitation Free, and I was blown away more and more with each record I scored. The fact that "Malesch" wasn't a fluke, or even the obvious high point of their discography (which they don't really have, in my opinion) was mind blowing. To find out that it was part of a body of work that is this consistent was unreal, it's amongst the hardest things to find (or create). Look at Guru Guru, they turned to absolute shit when they learned how to play too well. The fact that Agitation Free managed to make 4 solid records WITH line-up changes is fucking impressive, period.

Sadly, in the grand scheme of history Agitation Free are often seen as more of a farm team than as artists in their own right, since members ended up in such units as Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel, and Guru Guru. This, sadly, does a great injustice to how fucking good Agitation Free actually are in their own right.

For as free as they are (or can be) there is considerably better musicianship than in most other improv rock bands. At no point do they sound on the verge of collapse unless intentionally so, yet they can still space and free out and up pefectly. Their synthesizer work! Gawdamn! It's flat out perfection! Overflowing with actually unique sounds and fitting perfectly into the compositions and never overtly flashy even when its the focus. Why do you not hear more people raving about this band!

You owe it to yourself, right now, to listen to 'Through the Moods' from "At the Cliffs of River Rhineand hear a band that knows exactly what the fuck it's doing and how fucking cool synthesizers can be. If that isn't enough to make you shit your pants then listen to 'Haunted Island' from "2nd" and unleash a heavy monster of a closing track, not to mention that the filtered vocals are absolutely brilliant.
Note: If you want to ever get me to give your record a good review do this trick, I am a sucker for it. Period. Check out the spot on the Orang-Utan LP where they do it.

There is an amazingly detailed history of the band on their website (seriously more bands need to write their history with this level of detail) that you should go check out:

Go listen to 'em, now.

Dig, digging, dug.


Doug said...

Duuude, looks nice. You'll have to help me set-up my header that i made.
I was plannin' on doing an Agitation Free post soon...but you nailed what I was feeling...I feel like Malesch and 2nd are the two most underrated Kraut records ever...I mean, I don't think they were even in krautrocksampler at all, were they? Crazy. I guess those records are still a little ahead of their time....the soundtrack of the near-future? Let's hope so.

electric pure land said...

No problem, fair sir.
My art school dropout + dotcom freelance days mean I learned CSS... so I can help away.

I just finalized my version of this post just now... I think right as you posted this... So it's now a little more clear...

But yeah...
Agitation Free are fucking underrated and face melting period.