This is the second outing from Sheffield’s Das Rad, following their excellent and highly recommended debut. “Goodbye to the Future” might seem a darkly pessimistic title for this set; and the images of our esteemed leaders from the UK, USA, Russia and North Korea and surreal pastiches of Biblical scenes or fairy tales pasted on top of peeling wallpaper that Nick Robinson has used in his art-work suggest a bizarre dystopia. And yet, the music that Das Rad create has the optimism of a new dawn – albeit with some sinister undertones that blur the edges of the tunes.
Take the opener, ‘Inside Reverse’, which has a stuttering cymbal pattern over a deep, spacy bass line creating space of fuzz-drenched guitar and layered saxophone to present motifs that hang in the air and then dissolve. Over its 11’40 this creates a groove that seems to meander in a never ending, hypnotic circle – when it ends, you immediately want to restart the journey, picking up the ways in which the distorted sounds melt into each other, so that you realise that they are never quite dissolving but mutating. If I was to say that this create a piece of music that manages to be both relaxing and ominous, you can, perhaps, get that juxtaposition of pessimism and optimism that the band so ably and uniquely create.
Over the next two tracks that trade a more optimistic bounce (on ‘Buzz Line’) for the darkly experimental tones of ‘Deuce of Gear’ which segues neatly into the title track. Previous reviews have pointed out the hints of Prog- and Post-Rock and kosmiche Musik. For me, it is the way that the bass line and mixing calls to mind the classic Dub Reggae artists of the 70s and 80s that is most striking on this set, particularly the opener, the title track and the closing ‘Tiefes Blau’.
Just as the pioneers of Dub would mix a tune to its barest essentials, often obscuring the melody of the original to leave a shuddering skeleton of bass and drums, so Das Rad lay a solid and ever entertaining rhythmic bed and pile layer upon layer of sounds from guitar and saxophones. Just when you feel you have got a sense of their modus operandi, they throw curve-balls like ‘Eisblume’, a melancholy saxophone tune over a gently plucked acoustic guitar.
This continues the musical adventurousness of the first album and is a set that never fails to fascinate and excite. Easily a contender for the top ten albums of this year.
Reviewed by Chris Baber