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Agitation Free - Malesh

Comments:
Before starting my review, I have to mention that the Middle-Eastern influence surrounding Malesh is greatly exaggerated. For years, I kept reading about how the band travelled around the Middle East(back in 1972), played with local musicians, and recorded local sounds. Well, they could have easily just made the album in Germany. That being said, this is excellent "krautrock". For those of you unfamiliar with krautrock, it's basically a genre of music that started in Germany around 1969 and peaked in the mid-70s. The music is influenced by psychedelic music(both American and English), yet the German musicians set out to create something entirely new. Many bands began to include electronic experiments, African and Middle-Eastern rhythms, Karlheinz Stockhausen-like experiments, local German influences, and industrial-like repetition into the music. For some collectors, the music that came out of the period is greatly overrated, but krautrock fans love its naive charm, and overall weirdness, not to mention that modern rock music owes everything to krautrock(for good or for bad). Okay, on to Agitation Free's Malesh. The majority of the album is made-up of stoner-like jams. Fortunately, the musicians were quite good and sound rather tight on the album. If they did any drugs at the time, it was probably done after the recording sessions. The listener here is quickly treated to psychedelic interplay between bassist, guitarist, organ player, and electronic manipulation. For those of you worried about cliches found in psychedelic music, I have to say that the music here is quite original and unpredicitable. Once in a while I'm reminded of the Grateful Dead. In fact, the occasional Arabic-like jam on Malesh tends to sound similar to what the Dead were doing at the time. In between the tracks we find short field-recordings made by the band during their visit in Egypt, and Lebanon. Maybe at the time it was new to add "field recordings" to music, but today the idea has been quite accepted. So, the field-recordings here tend to serve as interludes between the longer jam sections. I do have to add that the ending of the album is rather emotional. The band bursts into a finale that is quite powerful, moving, and completely unexpected. In all, I was expecting something more Arabic in nature, but what I got instead sounds equally as good. If you're interested in Krautrock this is the introductory album to get.

Compositions: 9/10
Vocals(none): N/A
Recording Quality: 9/10


Eiliff - Eiliff

Click on the album cover to hear a RealAudio sample

Comments:
Eiliff were an early 70s prog band who released two albums before breaking up. Eiliff is their 1971 debut. The band seemed quite influenced by early Frank Zappa, Soft Machine, and Van Der Graaf Generator. Listeners are quickly treated to countless complex, yet gritty, sections on each of the 4 tracks. There is an emphasis on sax and electric piano interplay, but the album also features excellent guitar work(although some solos border on noodling). Most of the vocals reminded me of the Mothers Of Invention. They tend to be dissonant, somewhat sloppy, yet charming. Overall, this is great stuff if you enjoy early 70s prog. If I were to point out a flaw it would have to be that Eiliff had the tendency to sound exactly like their influences. So, the Zappa-influenced sections sound exactly like Zappa, the Soft Machine-influenced sections sound like long-lost Soft Machine recordings, etc. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, because it sounds like Eiliff did quite a bit of research and they did it correctly, but if you're looking for originality maybe you won't find it. Fans of Supersister, and Matching Mole should definitely check Eiliff out.

Compositions: 8/10
Vocals(in English): 7/10
Recording Quality: 7/10


Floh De Cologne - Geyer Symphonie

Comments:
Geyer Symphonie might not be for everyone, but it is an interesting find if you take it more as humor rather than a serious political statement. Apparently, these guys were a pro-Communist band in the 70s, and this album is full of spoken-word socialist propaganda(in German). The music, while never complex, seems influenced by Frank Zappa's cut-and-paste style featured on early-Mothers Of Invention albums. The passages are quick and vary from traditional German folk to bluegrass to krautrock(they play many styles in a quirky way). Musically, these guys don't take themselves seriously, but when the narration begins the atmosphere takes a serious tone. This is a great album to put on after Faust's The Faust Tapes, or Can's Tago Mago. Geyer Symphonie is just one of those weird albums!

Compositions: 8/10
Vocals(in German): 9/10
Recording Quality: 9/10


Gila - Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Comments:
Depending on your mood, krautrock can sound either dated or absolutely infectious. Gila falls somewhere between the two. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was released in 1973. The biggest problem that I had with the album, at first, was that it sounded too psychedelic, and thus dated, for a 1973 release. The music seemed to have more in common with early Amon Duul II than what was going on with rock music at the time. Once I got over that fact, I was soon treated to some of the prettiest psychedelic ever made. The music here emphasizes 12-string acoustic guitar, but the vocal harmonies really makes this band stand out. I'm reminded of vocal harmonies used by many of San Francisco's psychedelic bands during the late 60s; but Gila sound much more European(although they sing in English). The vocals are done using a combination of male and female vocals. Once in a while, I'm even reminded of the Dutch band Earth and Fire. The album talks about the abuse of American-Indians by white settlers, yet never comes off as a political statement. So those of you who might be turned-off by political albums have nothing to worry about. Along with the lush guitar and vocals, the listener is also treated to piano by Florian Fricke. In all it's a recipe for dream-like psychedelic music. For those of you looking for prog/psych with American-Indian influences, several songs feature native American rhythms, and chanting. Overall, if you're looking for lovely psychedelic music from continental Europe, you found it.

Compositions: 10/10
Vocals(in English): 9/10
Recording Quality: 8/10


Kraftwerk - Ralf & Florian

Comments:
Wow, I can't believe how this 1973 album stood the test of time. Ralf & Florian sounds absolutely fresh 28 years after it was first released. For those of you who are turned off by post-1976 Kraftwerk you definitely should keep an open mind when it comes to their first 3 albums. Ralf & Florian features what Kraftwerk refered to as "Kling Klang" music. Yes, the music is quite mechanical and synth-based, yet it's also surprisingly warm, not too repetitive, and funky. Basically, the listener is treated to electronic explorations with Ralf panned to one side, and Florian panned to the other side. Florian tends to focus on electronic synth oscillations, pulses, bassy rhythms, while Ralf solos on a rather cheesy sounding keyboard. An early drum-machine keeps their playing focused, yet is also used sparingly. What really surprised me about the music here, say compared to modern electronic music, is that many of the tracks feature multiple sections, tempo-changes, and even countermelodies. Considering how one-dimensional most of electronic sounds today, maybe those composers should dust-off this old album and study it closely. Electronic music influenced by the 70s "prog rock" philosophy can sound absolutely exciting and warm. Overall, if electronic music isn't really your thing right now, Ralf & Florian is a great introduction to the genre if you are mildly curios.

Compositions: 9/10
Vocals(none): N/A
Recording Quality: 9/10


Neuschwanstein - Battlement

Comments:
Neuschwanstein were a 70s German symphonic progressive rock band that released one album back in 1979. Battlement is a rather well-known album among prog fans due to its striking similarities with early Genesis. Singer Frederic Joos is an absolute dead-ringer for Peter Gabriel. In fact, most of the CD sounds like music Genesis could have released between 1975-1980 if Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett had stayed in the band. Compared to early Genesis, Neuschwanstein's instrumentation and recording capabilities were considerably higher, yet this German band got rather close to writing music that was equally as good as those early Genesis classics. Even their lyric writing skills were okay(although I have to mention that some people don't care for them). The only flaw that I can point out is that once in a while certain melodies, riffs, and rhythms remind you of certain sections in classic Genesis songs. Nothing is too blantant, but most Genesis fans will hear the similarities. In all, England's Garden Shed is still considerably better than Battlement, yet Battlement will easily impress fans of Genesis-sounding prog groups from the 70s.

Compositions: 9/10
Vocals(in English): 9.5/10
Recording Quality: 9/10


Rufus Zuphall - Phallobst

Comments:
Rufus were a heavy progressive rock band whose style was very similar to early-70s Jethro Tull. The songs feature heavy guitar sections, flute, and English vocals(although there are a few instrumentals). Once in a while, the band calms down a bit with acoustic guitars, and bit of mellotron(nothing to get excited about!), but the overall emphasis is on fast tempos, quick ideas, and great songwriting. One song("Portland Town") suffers from dumb lyrics, but, fortunately, the band finishes the song with a great instrumental section. If you are a fan of Spring you will probably like this CD.

Compositions: 8/10
Vocals(in English): 7/10
Recording Quality: 8/10



Stern-Combo Meissen - Weisses Gold

Comments:
Stern-Combo Meissen were one of the big East German bands back in the 70s. The music here is very symphonic(lush), featuring strong German-romanticism. Many might be annoyed by the narration(it doesn't bother me), but it never goes on for too long. I believe that they have two keyboardists, so the focus here is on the interplay between the various keyboards(Moog, hammond, and harpsichords). Weisses Gold is an excellent album.

Compositions: 10/10
Vocals(in German): 8/10
Recording Quality: 9/10


I want to thank Kristian for the following info on "Weisses Gold", and Stern-Combo Meissen.

"Weisses Gold is a concept album about the discovery of white china by Johann Friedrich Böttger. This discovery happened by accident in the early 18th century, while the of Saxon imprisoned and forced him to search for a chemical formula to create gold. This is the reason why the album is called Weisses Gold which simply means white gold."




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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