Reviews: Adios Al Futuro
Wow, the Wheel is treading! Despite all the strange attributes of noise, flight, improvisation, etc. it all comes together in a hellishly shaped sense! The wheel = wheel. Martin Archer prepared it nicely for us. Perhaps he will never get involved in the publishing deeds of his Discus Music. Whether he releases unique recordings by Keith Tippett, the impro-varied multi-ensemble Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere (Theta One to the recent Theta Five) or Das Rad, where Archer ubiquitously works with saxophones, synths with bass and keyboards. Two years after the debut of this duo, Nick Robinson’s psychedelic, thick-colored guitar really calls the saga an order of magnitude even more!
The improvisational trio from Sheffield works on an electro-freejazz basis. This is most evident in the twelve-minute introductory Inside Reverse, in which the layered / interleaved / rises / interweaves of the motif lines of various guitars (pure and broken effects) and saxophones (as well) with additional keyboards and sampled noises. Everything is hypnotically held at first by the almost imperceptible, sneering, coloring drums of Steve Dinsdale, but in the thickened instrumental gradation of the composition, they start the rhythm like a hellish machine. He will start in the subsequent Buzz Line without introductory phrases.
Which is an oak-jazz affair, where the bike steps on one riff under beautiful saxophone plays, urgent, intricately refined, it forces itself to sway in rhythm, at the same time to fly in fantasy. But you won’t have time to take off, because it will end soon and Deuce of Gears makes you think of the space between “pleasant” notes and noise. The title Adios Al Futuro is then with looped echoes of the electric piano, a chopped guitar and an ethereal baritone saxophone connecting these two musical poles previously introduced – harmonious playfulness to simple imagination versus flight in all directions into the complete noise unknown. Oslo Star then goes on a guitar hypno trip à la Fripp and Tiefes Blau closes the whole thing, in unexpected improvisational variations of instruments and chords. No template, construct, but permanent tension.
Das Rad is a trio comprising guitarist Nick Robinson, drummer Steve Dinsdale and Martin Archer on reeds, all three contributing keyboards and electronics. ‘Adios Al Futuro’ is an album you grow into, a shimmering, ethereal free-form expressionist music with occasional voices and enough ‘hooks’ to pull the listener in.
The sax, echoed by guitar, on ‘Rothko Strobe/ Another Place’ is especially memorable, as are the bass driven grooves on ‘Buzz Line’. My stand-out was ‘Oslo Star’ with lingering guitar notes, harp-like keyboard flourishes and jazz-like figures. ‘Tiefes Blau’ is the longest piece at 10 minutes, a satisfyingly spacey ending to an intriguing album
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!