Reviews: Das Rad

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!

DR1 review

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.

Chris Baber

Sid’s Top 20

From the xmas issue of “Prog Rock” – cheers Sid 😉


Une critique

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 !

Frederic Gerchambeau

Soundprojector review

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.

Original review

All About Jazz review

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.

Glenn Astarita

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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.