Squidco review

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Martin Archer’s Discus label is the UK’s best kept secret, in the sense that far more than the imprint’s loyal followers should be aware of its existence. Multi-instrumentalist Archer has built a formidable catalog that is genre-defying in similar ways to contemporaries ECM, Hubro, Sofa, Hat Hut, et al: ostensibly a ‘jazz label’ (which takes the very meaning of the word ‘jazz’ to heretofore unconsidered heights of stylistic fancy), Discus has long transcended such literal trappings (further-out Editions of Contemporary Music, natch), which means that Archer uses it as a conduit to release whatever sonic muse he, and that of his fellow artists, begs to pursue. This has resulted in a broad and consistently marvelous array of work that bridges the divide between compositional rigor and improvisational abandon, whipping elements of each into a heady, ultimately bracing and wholly satisfying, stew.

Das Rad (German for “The Wheel”, and germane to the band’s ever-spinning proclivities) seems to encapsulate and deconstruct the entire history of British avant-rock in one fell swoop. Archer and his compatriots — drummer and synthesist Steve Dinsdale, of grand electro-prog trio Radio Massacre International, and guitarist/loopist/electronicist Nick Robinson — court echoes of everything you loved about UK eccentric rock tropes of the past three decades, and then rocket to the heavens with an experimental zeal few of their colleagues can muster. The interstellar fug of space hucksters Hawkwind peek in from time to time, and myriad Canterbury influences are self-evident, though refracted through a prism that distorts its fabric most enigmatically (“Canterbury Steps”). Even the Pink Floyd-drenched psychedelia that informs Dinsdale’s parent band RMI rears its sun-dappled head throughout the lengthier explorations of sister tracks “Porto Steps” and “London Steps”, both of which are anchored by Archer’s piquant, Surman-esque sax playing. Bottom line is that all anecdotal evidence aside, these fellas are simply having a blast. There’s a vivacity to the playing that’s absorbing and eventful in a way few of prog’s ilk would cop to. Archer’s serpentine lines so beautifully enmesh themselves amongst the electronics of “Porto Steps” that you forget it’s essentially one long hunk of jammin’ dreamdrift, rendered with a diamond-cutter’s precision and more ideas than could be found in the deepest topographic ocean.

That the trio enjoys a good riff and isn’t afraid to loosen up its confines with something like ‘funk’ (“Tenser”) and/or the wide-open spaces bespoken of free jazz by way of King Crimson (“Sehnsucht”) speaks volumes about where ‘rock’ music can still go after all these years. It’s mystifying and surely ignorant when hirsute music buffs speak of progressive rock needing to adhere to a certain established vocabulary that renders it all but inert, calcified into well-trodden modes that hardly progress at all — the new boss, same as the old boss. Archer, Dinsdale, and Robinson sure as hell ain’t having none of that jazz; making mincemeat out of the molecular structure of blurt, bleat, and bloop, theirs is a necessary shock to the system, and pretty damn Rad at that.

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Nick Robinson

One of England’s only professional origami artists, with 75 books on the subject to his name. His early musical career included Typhoon Saturday, (who spawned chart-toppers “Living in a Box”)  who had a deal with Polydor and released 3 singles to minimal success. 

Another band was Dig Vis Drill. Those that saw them in the early 80’s felt this band were destined for greatness. They had a unique and awesome sound, a live act second to none, they were confrontational, challenging, intelligent and fronted by motor-mouth Ogy McGrath, a cross between Woody Allen and Attila the Hun.

From the mid 80s, Robinson began to explore improvised music (supporting Archer’s band “Bass Tone Trap” at a local gig). His path led to his current main activity performing and recording solo, looped guitar soundscapes. Prog legends Haze gave him lots of support gigs & subseqently invitied him to contribute a solo(!)  track for one of their albums.  He produced and played on 4 albums by the loose improv collective Meson. He contributed guitar to an album by Canadian maestro Chris Meloche. He has contributed several tracks to Chain Tape Collective projects. He provided guitar & loops for an album with another Archer project called Combat Astronomy. He  also performs with Herve Perez working under the banner of “String Theology”.  He had a CD released by the “Lost Garden” duo with former Comsat Angel Andy Peake. Other local collaborators include John Jasnoch, Howlaround & Charlie Collins.

His website has extensive information, audio, video, a discography and a blog covering midi, ableton and live looping amongst other topics.

Robinson and Archer had played a variety of gigs together in different formations so when Martin suggested bringing drummer Steve Dinsdale into the mix, Das Rad was born.

Steve Dinsdale

Drummer/Keyboardist cut his teeth on the Teesside and Sheffield music scenes  before moving to London in the late 80’s. Drummed with Honey Smugglers who recorded indie-classic single `Listen’ in 1990, and who are still asked regularly to appear on period compilations.

Joined T.V. Eye alongside ex-members of Eat and future celebrity-botherer and `Game Of Thrones’ star Paul Kaye. Gave up dreams of stardom after returning from holiday to find that said singer had gone off to live on a Kibbutz, and the guitarist was suddenly number one in the charts with a record he’d arranged for an unknown female singer with an eye patch.

Formed electronic improvising trio Radio Massacre International playing keyboards, electronics and drums with oldest friends and collaborators Duncan Goddard and Gary Houghton, who over a 25-year career have played dozens of concerts in the UK, Europe and USA as well as appearing on an MTV Europe co-host. The discography currently stands at some 60 or more releases including a trio of albums for acclaimed US label Cuneiform, and five solo albums made over the last ten years.

Performed as Drummer and/or Floor Percussionist with the Damo Suzuki Network on some half dozen occasions, one of which has led to a number of collaborations with Martin Archer including Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere which was founded in 2009 and has since made four albums, and Engine Room Favourites the 10-piece Jazz ensemble.

And now…Das Rad.

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