Reviews: Adios Al Futuro
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.
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
Das Rad is an English trio of Nick Robinson (guitars, keyboards, electronics), Martin Archer (woodwind, keyboards, synth bass, electronics) and Steve Dinsdale (drums, keyboards, electronics). They define themselves as a band “informed by progressive and krautrock esthetics”. To use a German name as an English Trio is almost a statement in these Brexit-times. Even more, because they choose a Spanish title meaning ‘Goodbye future!’ Nevertheless, they do not seem very upset by this situation as their music is a relaxed and comfortable trip.
They released their first one in 2018 on Archer’s Discus Music. This Sheffield based label is an outlet for many local projects of jazz, improvisation and experimental rock. From the catalogue of this label, the picture arises of a strong and lively local scene, crowded with musicians who do their own thing even when things seem to be a bit out of step of the time. This suggestion counts for Das Rad if you ask me.
With their spaced out and lengthy excursions, they practice an idiom that is not often met any more in our times to my knowledge. They excel in spun out and laid back spacey jams. They use echoing and cascading effects like in the uptempo ‘Buzz Line’. Their creations often have e a slightly psychedelic and sweltering atmosphere.
Keeping the middle between rock and jazz they brew their version of improv rock. Opening track ‘Inside Reverse’ has a pleasant groove with great solo work by Robinson on guitar. A track like ‘Rothko Strobe/Another Place’ is close to soundscaping. It is more about creating an atmosphere than building a musical form. And that’s my problem with this one. Their open structures have a straight forward rhythmic base, offering a good starting point for meandering excursions. For sure a very sympathetic unit, but I missed substance and urgency.
Sid Smith’s thoughts on our debut
Someone on rateyourmusic,com has described AAF as “Excellent – a genre must-have”…
Das Rad is a relatively new project by the busy Martin Archer, which you can find on these pages because of his solo works, but also as the maker of the Engine Room Favorites, Story Tellers, Inclusion Principle, Transient v Resident, Juxtavoices and especially the Orchestra of knows the Upper Atmosphere. A few years ago, this formed a trio with guitarist Nick Robinson and Steve Dinsdale (radio massacre international and Archer’s bandmate with the Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere), with the goal of creating progressive instrumental rock music (quote: ‘driving motorik music’), which at the same time should contain free improvised and more complex composed. After being sporadically live for a while, the trio released their debut album on Archer’s Discus label in November 2018.
A colorful and multi-layered instrumental prog can be found on “Das Rad”, with occasional herb-dry, Canterbury-like and Crimsonesk-frippy reminiscences. The band, which probably started as a guitar-sax-drum trio, uses a very extensive range of instruments here. Electronically amplified and acoustic guitars, all kinds of wind instruments, drums and percussion, and various electronic sounds, keyboard sounds and effects devices mainly produce the music. The result is a mixture of punchy, modern prog driven by Dinsdale’s drums, freer electronic sound crafting, jazz rock, extensive retro ingredients and a little experimental avant-garde (avant prog).
A bit of cabbage rock à la new! and Harmonia, or related motor-repetitive rhythm patterns, a pinch of Canterbury, especially minimalist e-piano patterns in the spirit of Soft Machine (you can hear “Canterbury Steps”) or corresponding sax or flute lines, a few mellotron-like patterns, a good shot more recent King Crimson, Stickprog and Frippsche soundscapes – the retro ingredients – are mixed here with jazzy sax lines, sonorous flute inlays (including the recorder), all sorts of reverberant and resounding guitar excesses, dense braids of electronics, chamber-progressive reed horns, sonorous key tapes, and countless humming sounds, key sounds beeping, growling, whirring and whining instrumental ornaments. Sometimes very rhythmically, sometimes formlessly floating, this music glides along, sonorous and voluminous, sometimes very powerful and dynamic, but often also playfully meandering or hypnotically-cosmically wavering (you can hear the closing “London Steps”).
“The wheel” offers a very colorful, retro-modern program with a lot of reverberation and atmosphere, which should be very popular with progers who appreciate the angular instrumental programs with strong electronic components and jazzy impurities.
The wheel. The wheel? How does a British band get such a name? Including partly German titles? In any case, such a British trio called the busy Martin Archer, who was already delighted to hear with Combat Astronomy and Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere, and is also active in several other projects. The wheel is another one that has been active since 2016 and released its first album in autumn 2018. In addition to Martin Archer, who mainly contributes various woodwind instruments, drummer Steve Dinsdale (also a member of the aforementioned Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere and electronics technician Radio Massacre International) and guitarist Nick Robinson are among them.
The musical goal of the trio is described on its homepage as “exploring a ‘motorik’ vein ”, and that is a good thing. The rhythm is actually often straightforward and straightforward, driving the music stoically. There are all sorts of escapades for brass and guitar, supplemented by some electronic sounds. Often you go into jazz-rocky areas, occasionally with a slight Canterbury influence, in addition there are influences from the newer King Crimson (very nice, for example, in Tenser) and now and then some electronic herb rock. The latter can dominate in phases and dissolve the music into largely free, cosmic, wavering sounds; not jiggling comfortably, as is so often the case with the old herb dryers, but also here with rough edges.
Nevertheless, the music never seems too unapproachable, despite some excursions into avant-garde worlds of sound it remains mostly relatively “catchy” (which pronounced melodic freaks might judge differently). The original and virtuoso instrumental prog of Das Rad (von dem Rad? Vom Rad?) Is strongly recommended to jazz and brass-savvy listeners. Incidentally, the logo on the CD is original, too, that of the insert