Das Rad – a review and a half!

A review from Darren Bergstein (Downtown Music Gallery NY) – no money changed hands!

Let’s open simply with: wow. Rarely am I rendered speechless by a recording, but when those moments occur, it’s pure heavenly euphoria. This, the second Das Rad joint, isn’t your father’s prog-fuelled space truckin’ by any stretch of the imagination. Hell, to just blithely brandish the trio’s music with the dusty sobriquet ‘prog’ does it an extraordinary injustice; it’s necessary to fully ingest this steadfastedly progressive music, one that encompasses the many shadings and layers summoned in that phrase. “Fusion” works here too, in as much as the trio effortlessly, cleverly, and brilliantly foment works that walk in the footsteps of the pioneering legends of the 70s while making their own profound mark. It’s high time the world caught up with the three chaps who comprise Das Rad: Discus labelhead, saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Martin Archer, drummer/percussionist Steve Dinsdale, and guitarist Nick Robinson (all three double up on electronics as well). This is a group who know their musical history and drinks deep of that musical history but chooses not to maximize or exploit the very clichés of that musical history.

What percolates throughout is triumphant, strident in the extreme, even caustic at moments, but possessed of singular invention and determination, its influences mere residue, echoes, callback. As syrupy strains of mellotron peek out from the opening minutes of “Inside Reverse”, Archer’s sax effects a splatterfest of fallout settling upon the synthetic, radioactive terrain; when Robinson’s guitars and Dinsdale’s probing cymbals arrive they cut across the acrid electronic tones with scythe-like ferocity.

Ghosts of the past rear their ectoplasmic heads while the music proceeds apace: Archer refracts glimmers of Mel Collins navigating the most scintillating King Crimson sides; Dinsdale channels synth and sequencer miasmas rescued from Dreams Tangerine in color and drumbeats timed to psychedelic prayers inside Ash Ra Tempels; Robinson works a mojo of Fripp/Pinhas intensity, with shout-outs to McLaughlin, Gottsching, even Makoto Kawabata.

Electronics don’t act as mere coloration, either; they’re integral to shaping and expanding the huge canvas on which the trio operates, despite the intense torture all three players visit upon their respective acoustics. It all makes for a head-spinning, confrontational, galvanizing experience, made all the more apparent once you glance inside the gatefold sleeve at the illustrations of the world’s notorious Un-fab Four of Boris Johnson, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, and Donald Trump. Basically, Das Rad ain’t foolin’ around: takin’ no priz’nas on their Kubrickian trip, a far-out space odyssey energized by post-millennial tensions, and, politics aside, this is a record for the times, the endtimes, and the ages. Ears be blown here, folks.

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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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