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!