News from Das Rad! Just over a year and a half after the untitled debut, the second album Adios Al Futuro followed in May 2020. The Struwwelpeter is emblazoned on the cover, and when you open the flip cover, you can see the friendly faces of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Kim-Jong Un and Boris Johnson. This quartet (errr) can give you the idea of saying goodbye to the future, but what about the Struwwelpeter? Who knows.
Anyway, the cast of Das Rad still consists of Nick Robinson, Martin Archer and Steve Dinsdale. Musically, the weights have shifted somewhat. The herb-rock influences and with them the motor rhythm of the debut have largely disappeared, instead one moves more towards a crimsoid jazz rock. Accordingly, the electronics take a back seat and often leave more space for Martin Archer’s saxophone; The guitar, which is angularly sawn in twisted lines, ensures the crimsoid impact. Corresponding passages were already on the debut, but now they take up more space. The introductory Inside Reverse is a wonderful example of this, it is somewhat reminiscent of newer things from King Crimson. The music rolls almost painfully slowly, with the guitar always wilder capers. This piece is quite characteristic of a large part of the album, whereby in the further course an increasingly jazzy component is added when Martin Archer blows the saxophone more often. Occasionally, the pace increases somewhat (Buzz Line, Oslo Star, for example), but mostly it remains rather reserved.
In addition, there are also moments of free sound tinkering, in which the tones are apparently randomly thrown into confusion in order to unite to strange but fascinating abstract structures. Deuce of Gears or the beginning of Rothko Strobe / Another Day, for example. Finally, there is largely acoustic piece with Eisblume, in which delicate guitar plucking is combined with a slightly oriental-looking soprano saxophone.
Adios Al Futuro is a worthy successor to the excellent debut of the trio, and takes a somewhat different musical direction. Another highlight of the prog year 2020!
Martin Archer must be one of the busiest men in music. Not content with running Discus, every other release seems to have some involvement from him, covering so many different styles and moods it is remarkable. Here we find him teaming up once again as Das Rad with Nick Robinson and Steve Dinsdale for another improvised excursion into noir-ish soundscape territory. Adios Al Futuro is the follow up to 2018’s self-titled release and finds them edging into other territories, as well as the propulsive workouts that were so addictive on that album. sounding like there are so many more players involved
The division of labour is essentially drums, guitars and woodwind, but all the players use electronics and that puts a whole other perspective onto this nominal trio, because it ends up sounding like there are so many more players involved. The opening track “Inside Reverse” is a long one and starts with a calming yet awakening horn intro, which feels like a measured warming up, the trip sounding out possibilities.
The horns prod and search, and an organ shifts in the background, providing shadow and shelter; the calm before the guitar storm that erupts, dragging hissing cymbals in its wake. The sax is the colour of dusky, bruised clouds and the tension is palpable as the track moves raptor-like, the delightful synth bass moving it far from jazz and deep into noirscape territory with the guitar an incandescent ache. all classical guitar and misty morning clarinet, alive with tambourine.
It is quite an introduction and the following pieces don’t let it down. The Trans Am-like synth groove of “Buzz Line” is an interesting melange of romantic sax and simmering guitar, a paean to love and a revolt against the idiocy of the world leader photographs featured on the gatefold. There is a lot of hope and belief on Adios Al Futuro, with some of the tracks taking a gentle route to opening our eyes. “Deuse Of Gears”‘ Ryuchi Sakamoto-style synths and forgotten fireworks give an Eastern shape-shifting vibe, while the pastoral “Eisblume” is all classical guitar and misty morning clarinet, alive with tambourine. a deft and charming series of exploratory sketches.
The synth bass is quite a secret weapon, and although it has a tendency to reflect some gleaming ’80s atmosphere in the title track, I can see Mikhail Baryshnikov whirling around an empty ballroom, weighing up his options of escape. In a similar vein, “Rothko Strobe” feels like a continuation of some of David Sylvian‘s woodland synth experiments, but it lays a fine bed with chattering guitars and immense drums, all sweetness and nature. These three really bring some gorgeous work out of one another, and it would be lovely to see how this translates to a live setting. It could be that Das Rad is just a studio bound project; but either way, the album is a deft and charming series of exploratory sketches.
Adios Al Futuro ends with the melodica laden “Tiefes Blau”, which chugs at an almost slowcore pace, allowing plenty of time for the players to wind around one another as it gradually at points winds into the aether until it gently comes to a halt. This is another success for Das Rad and on the strength of this, there is nothing the three can’t turn their hands to. I am already looking forward to the next installment.