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Agitation Free - Shibuya Nights - Live in Tokyo CD (album) cover


Agitation Free



3.82 | 27 ratings

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3 stars Old Krautrockers never die, but they do occasionally drift back to Planet Earth from deep space. For Agitation Free, that return to terra firma landed the newly reconstituted band a series of gigs in Tokyo, far removed (in both time and space) from their counterculture barnstorming in late 1960s Berlin.

First the good news: this wasn't another of those strictly mercenary nostalgia tours, featuring only one or two surviving players from the original group. The core of the classic Agitation Free line-up was back, and showing little sign of their advancing age (drummer Burghard Rausch had just turned sixty; the rest of the band wasn't far behind).

They sound incredibly sharp for a bunch of codgers who hadn't shared a stage in decades, showing here what a well-balanced group they could have been with a little more studio time behind them. Keep in mind the band produced only two albums in their heyday; three if you count the 1999 semi-reunion "River of Return". The Tokyo set-list includes a couple of tunes off that later session, but most of the show exhumes their best material from the 1970s, nicely updated to the new millennium.

The Arabic "Ala Tul", for example, re-imagines material from their debut album "Malesch", enhancing Lutz Ulbrich's Krautrock guitar groove with digital sound samples unavailable 25-years earlier. And the newly composed title track is a brooding slice of the same Space Rock Orientalism common in Germany a quarter century ago.

The sound quality of the CD is also thrilling, if somewhat impersonal in its digital perfection. And therein lies my one, nagging reservation about the album: it can be just a little too calculated at times. The crowd is unfailingly polite and attentive; the performances are all but flawless; and the production is so bright and clean it could have earned the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

It's wonderful to hear the band still alive and kicking, and with such youthful vitality. And the album succeeds in providing a comprehensive sampler for newcomers plus an exciting live document for older fans. But the mind-altering exploratory ethos of the early '70s ended ages ago, and (sadly) no one expects to change the world through music anymore. Maybe it's too late in the day to go home again, but here at least is a convincing digital-age facsimile of the original destination.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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