Progressive Aspect review

Perhaps with one panel of the fold-out CD digipak leering at us with a picture of Johnson, Putin, Jong-un, and Trump, one in each of the quartered panel, and given the album title, it’s just as well this journey through a disturbed inner space is entirely instrumental, as lyrically it would all be just be too depressing. However, “depressing” is not an adjective that applies to the music here presented.

Das Rad are an improvisational collective based in Sheffield, and another band with the seemingly Sheffield-ubiquitous Martin Archer as a member. Martin, among other things, supplies keyboards and electronics to the sound, as indeed do the other two of the trio. Martin’s signature instrument is the saxophone, Nick Robinson’s the psychedelic guitar, and holding it all together are Steve Dinsdale’s anchoring rhythms. Together they take a free-rock template forged in the heat of the Krautrock furnace, and weld it to jazz and dub sensibilities, and thus create a righteously rocking and trippy whole.

Taking off with the rocket ship Inside Reverse, sparse occasional beats guide woodwind into a comets-on-fire guitar excursion from Nick Robinson, the symphonic cacophony eventually breaking down into its component parts before the engine sputters out. That first track was a loose but fiery construct, much in the style of the band’s first self-titled album from nearly two years back. The second atomic psalm is more structured and rhythmic, and Buzz Line is a tighter affair with some lovely sax work from Martin Archer that takes over and spars with Steve Dinsdale’s urgent drums.

This album is as much about the space between the notes as it is about the noise they make, proven by Deuce Of Gears as it turns the engines off and traverses a slow-moving ring of rocky debris orbiting a distant planet. The title track is a Kosmische blues for our times, chopped guitar chording and electric piano reverberate, deep baritone saxophone dispersing the miasma, becoming righteous. Despite its title, Adios Al Futuro has a distinct air of determined optimism. Don’t let the bastards grind you down, daddio!

Another Place contains more delightful sax blowing and has a distinctly David Sylvian vibe to it. This is a good thing. The languid beats of Oslo Star swing gently in a cradle of stars before the sparks from Nick’s snarling guitar send occasional flashes through the cosmos, agitating the drums in simpatico. Very nice indeedy!

We sign off with Tiefes Blau, a shimmering Kosmische vessel sailing on the becalmed azure seas into the far off distance, taking its time to develop over a very laid-back beat, echoing and reverberating in and out of focus through accompanying interstellar swooshes that swirl, disperse, and reform in front of the listener, the guitar’s quietly ringing harmonics adding another layer to the space cake. Das Rad in dub, as it were.

A lot of folk are put off by the word “improvisation”, as it conjures images of angular, disconnected noise in the minds of the more straight-laced listener. That can be the case, but in this instance, improvisation means something far less confrontational, but nonetheless exciting and involving. Give this a listen, you may be surprised!

Roger Trenwith

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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.