Double review

From Audion / Ultima Thule


No, not a bunch of Teutonic radicals, Das Rad got their name (partly, I think) from Steve Dinsdale’s first electronic band named DAS, who were the precursor to Radio Massacre International, and adding the first letter of each member’s surname (which is also the first 3 letters of Radio), you end up with Das Rad: Nick Robinson (guitars, effects) probably best-known for being in the 80s Sheffield new-wave band They Must Be Russians, Martin Archer (winds, keyboards, electronics) head honcho of Discus Music, and the aforementioned Steve Dinsdale (drums, synth). Not that Das Rad bear any resemblance to DAS or Radio Massacre International. They are a bit more “rad” and unclassifiable than that! Martin and Steve had previously worked together in Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere, and thus some of their interaction from that project can be heard in Das Rad too. But, that said, none of the music is really what one would expect from either.

The eponymous debut CD covers a lot of ground in its twelve tracks, from the upbeat and groovy to the abstract or moody, in fact so much ground that it would be pointless to do a track by track review. Basically, the disc starts with an upbeat number that kind of reminds me of that old 70s outfit Quiet Sun (with Phil Manzanera) given a lively modern update, then we go mid-tempo, atmospheric and moody, majestic, then light classical acoustic, before then getting funky with synths and sax. Track 7: Sehnsucht does much of the former all in one track, getting a little Lard Free like, it moves through upbeat and more low-key phases (the latter with reverse Frippian guitar and  multi-voiced saxophone), and crams a lot into its 5:43 duration. The three most experimental tracks all end with the word “Steps” and feel improvised, all with lots of nice expressionistic noodling on guitar by Nick. In all, not a bad debut, and one with many surprises.

ADIOS AL FUTURO has a different focus, and a very live sound – actually it sounds like they’re performing in a cave, which is odd! The opening number Inside Reverse, feels a bit like the late 1980s international German based combo Dark with David Torn on guitar, but with lots of extra twiddly bits and Nick Robinson gets a tad more freaky than Torn ever did. Buzz Line is a different high flying fusion, which reminds me of someone (I just did a check), yes – it’s somewhat like Phil Manzanera circa DIAMOND HEAD, with a little bit of Tangerine Dream in the sequencer line.

Other tracks run a wider range of styles, Deuce Of Gears being more freeform experimental, and a variety of fusions, some of which I’m thinking Bruford – I could be right. There’s a very funky groove at the heart of Oslo Star, which seems to be a Terje Rypdal dedication. And then Tiefes Blau ends the disc with a 10 minute slow majestic beat and everything but the drums immersed in a crazy haze of echoes and reverb.

So, that’s two highly creative instrumental fusion albums that cover a wide variety of styles whilst gaining their own style along the way. They’ve also issued a 10″ record, which I’ve not heard and are working on a third album!

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Jon Short

Starting with proto jazz-rockers March the Third and playing cello on a Pulp single, Jon Joined Nick in the 80s for a promising outfit called “Harriet”, with a singer who later wrote for Tina Turner and won awards. 

Sadly it fell through and Jon formed Deep Sky Divers, a feted ambient duo. 

Chosen by Das Rd not only for his consummate playing but also because his surname matched a letter from the band acronym!

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Nick Robinson

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. 

You can check out his discography on his site, along with extensive information, audio, video and a blog covering midi, ableton and live looping amongst other topics. You can find more of his music on his Bandcamp page and his solo CD was released by Discus Music in 2022, attracting rave reviews from Adrian Belew, Steve Hackett and others.

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, later to be augmented by his old musical sparring partner Jon on bass.

Nick is one of England’s only professional origami artists, with over 100 books on the subject to his name.

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.