Reviews: Das Rad
We’ve found another great review!
The name of the band points to the German roots of the music here. As well, of course, as being an acronym of the band members, ‘das rad’ means ‘the wheel’, and so there is a many-layered set of puns at play in naming the band and its approach to making music. In several of the tunes here, they take the motorik rhythms of classic German rock bands on the ‘70s, merge these with basslines that come from the North of England in the ‘80s and mash this up with a very contemporary take on jazz-rock. This makes for a very accessible and engaging set of pieces that ought to find a wide across audiences of all manner of genres.
Three tunes (‘Canterbury steps’, track 3, ‘Porto steps’, track 8 and ‘London steps’, track 12) work a different vibe, with loops, backbeats and electronic experimentation under subtle lyricism. All of this, within the improvisatory frameworks that characterise Discus releases and Archer’s approach to making music. More than this, though; the liner notes point out that the trio set out to make a ‘European record by European musicians…our own small protest against the political and social insanity which coincides with the release of this work’.
What is so intriguing about the music here is the way that (as Archer so often does) it takes a set of musical styles, immerses itself in their history and then invents an entirely new direction that these styles could have taken. There is an odd sense that you are listening to music recorded at some point in the 70s, or 80s, or 90s but equally something that is entirely contemporary.
From the xmas issue of “Prog Rock” – cheers Sid 😉
Just found a review on a French site, which google translates as follows 😉
Well, guys, it’s clear, we play in the yard of very tall. DAS RAD is a trio, but each of its members alone is worth its heavy weight of respect and admiration. Let’s first mention Steve DINSDALE, who plays drums and sometimes keyboards in the mythical English trio RADIO MASSACRE INTERNATIONAL. Then Nick ROBINSON, an absolute ace of guitar loops, it is born, evolve and disappear at will, like a magician of sound. Last but not least, Martin ARCHER, an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, plays the saxophone, clarinet, flute or keyboards as well, performing at nothing less than ORCHESTRA OF THE UPPER ATMOSPHERE and COMBAT ASTRONOMY, and who, excuse of the little, also founded the label Discus Music.
So when three musicians of this huge caliber enter the same studio, we are already certain of the stratospheric quality of the result. And the content of this album is that one, twelve pieces rich, dense and exciting, from which stand out more particularly the two major and magnificent pieces that are Porto Steps and London Steps, whose duration exceeds ten minutes. All this is audacious, refined, often epic, sometimes fiery, always mastered, always excellent. Great art, really.
Steve’s battery initiates the movement and hammers the “beat”, Nick settles on the tempo and launches his curls, and Martin surfs on it and carries us with him in the musical skies. It is unstoppable while remaining continually stylish, “high british quality” requires. Styles succeed, add or mark their territories, rock, jazz, psyche, Berlin school, prog ‘, canterbury, electronica, or ambient, it is jostling at the gate and my faith is always good, very good. A bad electric guitar riff puts you down, a line of cosmic mellotron picks you up and takes you through the universe, that’s the basic rule.
As you can see, this album is a transmusical odyssey in twelve tasteful stops. So, if you like adventure, wow!, Bravery and top level musicians with all the achievements, do not hesitate; You will love !
Latest Discus Music release is Das Rad’s self-titled album (DISCUS 75CD) …this trio of players is Martin Archer plus guitarist Nick Robinson and drummer Steve Dinsdale, and they started it a couple of years ago just as a way they could have fun playing what they call “motorik music”. Drummer Dinsale has appeared on previous Archer projects, but guitarist Robinson is new to me. The plan is to sometimes work with arrangements and give themselves the discipline of a framework, while still hewing true to that spirit of free playing and improvising they love so well. Archer contributes woodwinds, but also keyboards and electronics, and though the nucleus of the band could be called a sax-guitar-drums thing, there’s evidently plenty of scope to lushen up the arrangements into something pretty fruity.
This is one of the more enjoyable Discus items we’ve heard for a while – pretty much in the mode of open-ended electronic rock music not far apart from some of your favourite krautrock and prog records – and sometimes edging into the same sort of fusion-ish territory as Gary Boyle, Association P.C., or Arte e Mestieri. Even the disk artwork is designed to resemble the famed Harvest label of the 1970s, home to everyone from Kevin Ayers to Quatermass. While sometimes this very melodic and accessible music may start to feel a little cloying and sweet if heard for long periods, the musicianship is exceptional, and it’s clear that all players are not just enjoying themselves but fulfilling a deep-seated need to make this kind of music. As ever with Archer records lately though, I find there’s just so much of it; the material could have been edited down to LP length to produce a much punchier result. But Archer’s generosity of spirit cannot be contained, and we all benefit from this largesse.
The track titles all have European references and themes, and this is intended as a protest against the “political and social insanity” that is Brexit. “We think of this as a European record by European musicians,” states Archer firmly. Music like this is the perfect riposte to narrow-mindedness and to those who would deprive us of freedom of thought; it’s a melodic advert for freedom.
Fine review here.
More from the imaginary artistic world of multi-instrumentalist, multi-reedman, producer Martin Archer and associates is a welcome surprise. Then again, the artist’s Discus label offers a huge discography devised on dissimilar, futuristic and unorthodox outcomes. Other than the one-off modern jazz outings, Archer is a crafty, forward-thinking musician, spanning numerous ensembles, large and small. Here, the trio seemingly abides by a compose as-you-go rite of passage that embeds experimental jazz fusion, psycho pop, classic progressive rock and a slew of abstractions via a polytonal soundstage amid the label’s customary audiophile grade sound engineering.
With Steve Dinsdale’s perky backbeats and the soloists’ quirky and/or melodic themes, many of these works are treated with airy and streaming electronics-based backwashes, occasionally tinted with 1970s style Krautrock stylizations. Moreover, several motifs convey semblances of distress, pleasure and wit, aAlthough they play it even keel on “Boom,” which is a tune concocted with a harmonious synth line, fuzz bass and mellotron voicings outlined within an up-tempo prog rock cadence.
“Sehnsucht” is punched out by the drummer’s funk-rock beats, topped off by Archer’s yearning sax soloing and guitarist Nick Robinson’s hard strumming chord passages and intensifying phrases, as the band overlays the moving parts with a diminutive theme. Other works feature Archer’s laid-back jazzy sax grooves, off-centered constructions, drifting EFX statements, delicately executed sound-shaping mechanisms and wacky synth mutations. But Robinson multi-tracks guitars on the classical-flavored solo etude, “Fernweh.” Indeed, the variety of the track mix morphed with a parade of disparate tonal sequences and an abundance of solid improvisations loom as a persuasive set of developments on this gratifying studio date.
Pretty damn fine review here – text below
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.