At The Cliffs of River Rhine
courtesy of Keith
Henderson from Columbus, OH
On Feb. 2, 1974, a special performance
by Agitation Free was broadcast live on WDR (Cologne) radio program 'Nachtmusik.'
In 1995, a poor quality recording of this event was bootlegged onto LP
as "At last...is Alive." Thankfully, the proper tapes of the show
have now been carefully remastered by Michael Hoenig himself, and released
on CD by Walter Nowicki's Garden of Delights label in Germany. Entitled
"At the cliffs of river Rhine," the 38-minute show features some
of the very best cosmic improv-rock in existence. Most of the material
was derived from the excellent '2nd' album (1972), and although guitarist
Gustl Lutjens was brand new to the band at the time, the group displayed
impeccable timing and fluidity at every turn.
The album opens with the previously-unheard
improvisation piece, "Through the Moods." For more than 13 minutes,
the five musicnauts leave the confines of this solar system to explore
the outer reaches of our galaxy. Early in the piece, Lutjens' cascading
leads and Gunther's countering bass excursions lie intertwixt....next,
Hoenig parlays with wild sounds from his electronic kit. Eventually,
the whole band rocks out into an uptempo buzzing jam...truly wonderful.
The eminently graceful 'First Communication" then arrives and fills the
room as if through an open window carried on a summer breeze. The
piece sounds at once melodic and busy, in a way that artists residing in
a certain small town in Kent could only hope to achieve.
With Rausch adeptly keeping
time behind the drum kit, Hoenig's synth freak-out "Dialogue & Random"
takes over and brings us to the classic "Laila." Essentially two separate
tracks built together, Part I winds things up to a heightened state, only
to have Part II back off into a lighter, hypnotic rhythm built effectively
upon Gunther's repeating (but active) bass line. Twin soloing by
Lutjens and Ulbrich puts off the piece's signature lead riff, only to then
return to more extended soloing afterwards. All I can say is...amazing!
Time hardly moves during the entire 10 minutes....it can only be explained
relativistically. Electronic chirping birds break "The Silence of
the Morning Sunrise," the final piece that brings forth some very innovative
rhythm guitar work by Ulbrich. Not being a guitarist myself, I can
only guess that the tuning or playing style employed is very unusual...the
notes are strangely off-color and unsettling in a very intriguing way,
that effectively counter the bright and cheerful emanations from Lutjens'
It has only been out a short
time, but I believe that "river Rhine" is already my favorite Agitation
Free recording. With such a talented group of on-stage musicians,
which will soon exist again, I can imagine endless possibilities in sound
exploration and song formats. Hence, I can only think of the latest
reunion as a forward-thinking endeavor.
Agitation Free music from 1974
sounds fresh and exciting, so I can only imagine that their music from
1999 will sound futuristic.