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.
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.
Pretty damn fine review here – text below
Martin Archer’s Discus label is the UK’s best kept secret, in the sense that far more than the imprint’s loyal followers should be aware of its existence. Multi-instrumentalist Archer has built a formidable catalog that is genre-defying in similar ways to contemporaries ECM, Hubro, Sofa, Hat Hut, et al: ostensibly a ‘jazz label’ (which takes the very meaning of the word ‘jazz’ to heretofore unconsidered heights of stylistic fancy), Discus has long transcended such literal trappings (further-out Editions of Contemporary Music, natch), which means that Archer uses it as a conduit to release whatever sonic muse he, and that of his fellow artists, begs to pursue. This has resulted in a broad and consistently marvelous array of work that bridges the divide between compositional rigor and improvisational abandon, whipping elements of each into a heady, ultimately bracing and wholly satisfying, stew.
Das Rad (German for “The Wheel”, and germane to the band’s ever-spinning proclivities) seems to encapsulate and deconstruct the entire history of British avant-rock in one fell swoop. Archer and his compatriots — drummer and synthesist Steve Dinsdale, of grand electro-prog trio Radio Massacre International, and guitarist/loopist/electronicist Nick Robinson — court echoes of everything you loved about UK eccentric rock tropes of the past three decades, and then rocket to the heavens with an experimental zeal few of their colleagues can muster. The interstellar fug of space hucksters Hawkwind peek in from time to time, and myriad Canterbury influences are self-evident, though refracted through a prism that distorts its fabric most enigmatically (“Canterbury Steps”). Even the Pink Floyd-drenched psychedelia that informs Dinsdale’s parent band RMI rears its sun-dappled head throughout the lengthier explorations of sister tracks “Porto Steps” and “London Steps”, both of which are anchored by Archer’s piquant, Surman-esque sax playing. Bottom line is that all anecdotal evidence aside, these fellas are simply having a blast. There’s a vivacity to the playing that’s absorbing and eventful in a way few of prog’s ilk would cop to. Archer’s serpentine lines so beautifully enmesh themselves amongst the electronics of “Porto Steps” that you forget it’s essentially one long hunk of jammin’ dreamdrift, rendered with a diamond-cutter’s precision and more ideas than could be found in the deepest topographic ocean.
That the trio enjoys a good riff and isn’t afraid to loosen up its confines with something like ‘funk’ (“Tenser”) and/or the wide-open spaces bespoken of free jazz by way of King Crimson (“Sehnsucht”) speaks volumes about where ‘rock’ music can still go after all these years. It’s mystifying and surely ignorant when hirsute music buffs speak of progressive rock needing to adhere to a certain established vocabulary that renders it all but inert, calcified into well-trodden modes that hardly progress at all — the new boss, same as the old boss. Archer, Dinsdale, and Robinson sure as hell ain’t having none of that jazz; making mincemeat out of the molecular structure of blurt, bleat, and bloop, theirs is a necessary shock to the system, and pretty damn Rad at that.
Concise, but positive review in Jazzwise by Selwyn Harris,
“A sonic space in which krautrock, electronic jazz and the more experimental side of post 1980s indie rock converge with creditable results.”
A great review from freq.org.uk !
Venerable reviewer shows discerning taste – review by Sid Smith
Dereck Higgins has posted a great review of our CD on his video blog 😉
German review site Babyblaue Seiten liked our CD so much they gave it a second good review – this one from Jochen Rindfrey!
Das Rad? How does a British band get such a name? Including partially German titles? Anyway, such a British trio is called around the busy Martin Archer, who already excited my ears with Combat Astronomy and Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere, and is active in several other projects. Das Rad is another that has been active since 2016 and released its first album in the fall of 2018. In addition to Martin Archer, who mainly contributes various woodwind instruments, include drummer Steve Dinsdale (also a member of the aforementioned Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere and the electronics group Radio Massacre International) and guitarist Nick Robinson.
The musical goal of the trio is described on its homepage as “exploring a motoric vein” , and that suits it pretty well. The rhythm is in fact rather straightforward which drives the music stoically. There are all sorts of escapades of brass and guitar, supplemented by some electronic sounds. Often they go into jazz-rocky areas, occasionally with slight Canterbury influence, also influences of the newer King Crimson (especially in Tenser ) and every now and then some electronic Krautrock. The latter can dominate in stages and dissolve the music into largely free, cosmic, wafting sounds; not cozy drifting as so often with the old Krautrockers, but here with corners and edges.
Nevertheless, the music never seems too abstrract, and despite some excursions in avant-garde sound worlds remains predominantly relatively “accessible” (which melodic freaks might judge differently). For jazz and brass aligned listeners, the equally original and virtuosic instrumental program of Das Rad is strongly recommended. Incidentally, the logo on the CD, which is inspired by that of the legendary Harvest label, is also original.
Short & sweet – “Fine instrumental music”.
Babyblaue have given us a high rating on this review.
Here’s the raw translation from google to give you the gist 😉
A colorful and multi-faceted instrumental program can be found on The Wheel, with occasional krautrockigen, Canterbury-like and crimsonesk-frippery reminiscences. A quite extensive instrumentation starts here probably the band started as guitar-sax-drums-trio. Electronically amplified and acoustic guitars, all sorts of wind instruments, drums and percussion, and various electronic sounds, keyboard sounds and effects equipment mainly produce the music. The result is a mix of punchy modern Prog driven by Dinsdale’s drumming, freer electronic tinkering, jazz-rocking, extensive retro-ingredients and a little experimental-avant-garde (avant-prog).
A little Krautrock à la New! and Harmonia, or related motor-repetitive rhythm patterns, a dash of Canterbury, especially minimalist e-piano patterns in the spirit of soft machine (you can hear “Canterbury Steps”) or corresponding sax or flute lines, a few mellotronartige patterns, a good shot more recent King Crimson, embroidery and Frippsche soundscapes – the retro-ingredients – are mixed here with jazzy sax lines, sonorous flute pads (also recorder), all kinds of echoing and resounding guitar excesses, dense electronic braids, chamber-progressive reed horns, sonorous key carpets and innumerable tonal, shimmering, honking, hissing, fiependen, growling, whispering and whining instrumental ornaments. Sometimes very rhythmic, sometimes shapeless-floating, this music glides along, sonorous and voluminous, sometimes very powerful and dynamic, but often also playfully meandering or hypnotic-cosmic wafting (listen to the concluding “London Steps”).
“Das Rad” offers a very colorful, retro-modern Proggemenge with a lot of reverb and atmosphere, which Proggerinnen and Proggern, the edgy instrumental Progs appreciate with strong electronic components and jazzy impurities, should appeal very much.