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Agitation Free

The German avant-garde rock band Agitation Free formed in 1967 and featured founding members bassist/keyboardist Michael Gunther and guitarist/keyboardist Lutz Ulbrich. Originally known as the Agitation -- a name picked at random from the dictionary -- the group added "free" to their name a year later, inspired by a free concert they performed. Though they began by playing covers, Agitation Free added extended improvisations into the songs, and jamming became the basis for their own works. The group also collaborated with Berlin's art students on slide-shows, projections, and other multi-media performances, and played gigs at conservatories and galleries in addition to club shows.

By 1970, Agitation Free were a fixture of Berlin's art rock scene, performing with like-minded bands such as Tangerine Dream, Amon Düül and Guru Guru, all of whom appeared at that year's First German Progressive Popfestival in Berlin's Sportpalast. The group often acted as an incubator for underground rock talent, losing guitarist Axel Genrich to Guru Guru that year, and drummer Christopher Franke to Tangerine Dream in 1971. Ulbrich and Gunther added guitarist Jorg Scwhenke, drummer Burghard Rausch, and keyboardist Michael Hoenig to the lineup, and the quintet procured a record deal with the Music Factory label later that year. Agitation Free's debut album, Malesch, came out in 1972 and was heavily influenced by their tour of Egypt, Greece, and Cyprus, which was sponsored by the Goethe Institute, blending the group's improvisational rock with ambient sounds from the countries they toured. Despite the group's growing popularity -- spurred by their performance at the 1972 Olympics in Munich -- poor distribution hindered the album's sales.

In 1973, Agitation Free continued touring in France and Germany and released their sophomore effort 2nd, but disappointing album sales, musical differences, and boredom brought on by constant touring chipped away at the band. They disbanded in 1974, but Gunther and Ulbrich continued on with a new name, Lagoona. However, this project also received little favorable attention and ended in late 1975. Several Agitation Free albums were released after the group's breakup, including 1976's Last, 1995's Fragments, and the following year's At the Cliffs of the River Rhine.

In 1998, Gunther, Rausch, Hoenig, and Ulbrich reunited at Ulbrich's birthday party and decided to revive Agitation Free. The following year, River of Return appeared, featuring the original quartet as well as new members Johannes Pappert from the underground group Kraan, and Bernard Potschka, formerly the guitarist for Spliff. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi
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