Reviews: Adios Al Futuro
This UK-based band’s follow-up to its self-titled 2019 release is a tad less experimental and more grounded in progressive rock and krautrock, aptly called out in the press release. It is an acoustic-electric offering often sweetened by Martin Archer’s wistful sax lines, slightly tinged with studio echo to provide a little depth. Moreover, many of these works feature hummable melody lines and memorable hooks, although the trio does sprinkle ominous overtones amid Nick Robinson’s stinging guitar chords and razor-like lead lines.
Other than related electronic dreamscapes, the core trio grooves to many different beats with EFX which may intimate the bending of space time and other cosmic trickery. With shadowy backdrops, ostinato synth motifs and prodding pulses, they also engage the free jazz element, namely on “Deuce of Gears.” But on “Adios Al Futuro” they dish out a slow cadence with broad backwashes of electronics and Archer’s peppery sax phrasings, largely steeped in prog rock-like explorations via a wondrously coordinated arrangement.
“Eisblume” is a pretty interlude consisting of Robinson’s deft Spanish guitar work and Archer’s singing sax lines, touched with mellotron voicings. Whereas “Tiefes Blau” is the lengthiest and final track clocking in a little over 10-minutes; on this piece the musicians launch a budding theme, topped with a lovely harmonica-sounding keyboard riff. They also swerve into a spacey jazz fusion mindset with enticing harmonic applications, trickling EFX and guest bassist Aidan Hall’s booming notes and the artists’ intersecting micro-themes. Like the preponderance of the album it is an addictive piece, where gentle adaptations seamlessly coalesce with steely injections and Steve Dinsdale’s punchy pulses and crushing rock tempos. Overall, the negative if slightly playful album title bids a goodbye to the future, yet Das Rad seems to be enjoying its trek into the cosmos, searching for a habitable port of call somewhere in our solar system.
First of all, Steve Dinsdale, who plays drums and sometimes keyboards in the legendary English electronic trio Radio Massacre International. Then there’s Nick Robinson, an absolute ace of guitar loops, which he brings to life, evolve and disappear at will, like a magician of sound. Finally, Martin Archer, who as an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, plays saxophone, clarinet, flute or keyboards, officiates in nothing less than Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere and Combat Astronomy, and who, of course, also founded the label Discus Music.
So when three musicians of this huge calibre enter the same studio, we are already certain of the stratospheric quality of the result. In fact, therefore, the DAS of Adios Al Futuro remained the same as for Das Rad. And the level of play and composition also remained the same, ie quite ruffled. This gives eight rich, dense and exciting pieces, from which stand out in particular the two major and magnificent pieces that are Inside Reverse and Tiefes Blau, which last more than ten minutes. All this is bold, refined, mastered, always excellent. Very great art, really, just like the first album.
What has changed, because obviously something has changed, is the urgency distilled in large drops in all this. Yes, we say goodbye to the future, as an echo of the “No Future” of punks, and we hurry to live while we still can, to enjoy the good time we still take before tomorrow is nothing! So DAS RAD puts even more of everything into its already fabulously rich recipe. More rhythms, more guitars, more mellotron, more of everything Itell you!
In a 1970s musical film (whose title I forget), a guitarist said to the other members of his band: “You have to play hard so you don’t hear the world fall apart.” Adios Al Futuro is a bit like that, one last frenzied dance before today falls into oblivion. But when it’s done by musicians of this level, we console ourselves with the coming apocalypse by thinking that it will be after all a demented reminder at the end of a monstrous concert!
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!
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!
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.