A fine Adios review

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

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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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