Friday, 2 September 2011

Agitation Free - River Of Return (1999)


If someone asked me to briefly describe the sound of "River of Return" I might say it reminds me of the mellower side of Djam Karet mixed with a shot of Meddle-era Floyd. Or I could go with the note on the back of the CD which says to "file under psychedelic ambient pop." Either way, the album is a space rock fan's delight. It reminds me very much of Djam's "Ascension" album though perhaps a bit less weird and with the nice addition of saxophone.

The title track begins with 2 ½ minutes of a chord picked out on acoustic with some light sax creeping in, before the band arrives. The next 6 minutes deliver a mid tempo rhythm with occasional pleasant guitar or sax solos before the acoustic from the beginning returns. "2 part 2" is a spacey hodge-podge of synths, bass, assorted noises to a straight up drum beat. Half way through they tear into a sweet electric guitar solo that stretches to the end of the song-great! "Fame's Mood" is an excuse for a nice bluesy little solo. Next up is the 10 minute "Susie Sells Seashells at the Seashore" and with that title it better deliver, right? Well it's quite different from the "normal" songs we've heard so far, this is pure experimental ambient noisescapes, way weird, way out there. Over the constant sound of waves rolling in, you have various strange keyboard samples rising like an Eno album with other bizarre parts making occasional entrances. Nice stuff, especially for the psychedelic warriors out there. "The Obscure Carousel" takes a lazy pace with some nice sparring between guitar and sax, nothing mind blowing but it's nice. "Nomads" is a highlight, beginning with hand percussion and very slowly adding a distant bubbly bass, acoustic rhythm guitars and some tortured electric soloing. Later the acoustics will solo a bit but the way the track builds so nicely is the story here. "Das Kleine" begins with folksy strumming and acoustic slide sounding a bit like an old acid jug band. They trade off on some rippin acoustic jams that would get Garcia and Grisman all hot and bothered. Yet they never lose the pretty melody holding it together. Nice. Last is the 13 minute mini-epic I suppose, "177 Spectacular Sunrises," which like Susie above shifts back to ambient drift and wide open canvas for spacey noodlings. This one is more minimalist than and not as interesting to me as Susie though it works. The bonus track "Keep On" is a rather unmemorable "straight" sounding pop-rock throwaway. A few nice guitar licks but really adds nothing after the long space piece.

So we have a very nice updating of the Agitation Free sound, they maintain their traditions but add a modern sound and quality production. It's not an essential album but it will please space rock fans I think. I especially feel that fans of Djam Karet should not miss this album. Plenty of medium gear rock with good guitar work and pleasant melodies married to the ambient meditative half. 3 ½ stars. AGITATION FREE River Of Return music reviews and MP3

Songs / Tracks Listing
1. River Of return (8:24)
2. 2 part 2 (5:46)
3. Fame's mood (4:10)
4. Susie sells seashells at the seashore (10:01)
5. The obscure carousel (5:16)
6. Nomads (7:07)
7. Das kleine Uhrwerk (5:04)
8. 177 spectacular sunrises (13:08)
9. Keep on (3:57)

Total Time: 62:53
Line-up / Musicians - Lutz "Lüül" Ulbrich / guitar, keyboards
- Gustl Lütjens / guitar, keyboards
- Burghard Rausch / drums
- Johannes "Alto" Pappert (ex-Kraan) / saxophone
- Michael "Fame" Günther / bass, keybopards


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