Their 4th release,”Veer”, is the first with Jon Short on bass, the band continue to produce challenging, thoughtful music mixing improv with composed pieces. The expanded line-up has allowed them to focus on grooves as well as opening new doors for live performance. As a nod to their prog roots, the album includes a 26 minute track “Expergefactor”.
Please have a go at folding our “Veer Glider” (designed by Nick) and let us know if it flies!
Steve Hackett (Genesis / solo): Congratulations on your latest album, which I enjoyed. It has great playing and I loved the guitar. The rhythms are strong and it has a good atmosphere. I wish you luck with it.
Dave Sturt (Gong / Bill Nelson) Dark atmospheres, intricate arrangements, mangled sounds – what’s not to like! A fabulous new Das Rad album – constantly exploring and inspiring.
Featuring the angelic choir of Pete Rophone on “Evian”. Recorded and mixed at Discus & Seaview studios during 2022/3. Artwork by Simon Robinson.
With their third album LAIK TORS, the band Das Rad had somehow shifted right into my taste range with what was a quite a surprising and invigorating release, full of great themes, work-outs and many surprises along the way. As such, based on their history, they were never going to do a sequel to that, as they seem to shift to a different stance, style and approach with each release. Okay, they do have a style in there somewhere that runs through all their releases, yet they don’t let it dominate what they do.
So, enter album number four, cunningly named VEER after the German for four: vier, and also (I guess) an indication that they’ve changed direction. As an album, what we get here would encompass three sides if it was put out as vinyl, a first LP with seven tracks, followed by an addition near 26-minute suite occupying the third LP side. The opening Lutraphobia (I had to look that up, “the irrational fear of otters” apparently) is a thumping bass-line driven groover, full of double saxophone hooks, and freaky solos from other instruments, with a peculiar break at round a third of the way through and then a freaky section two-thirds through. In all, it’s quite crazy. The following Bergen Cross comes across like a Soft Machine tribute, although not to any Soft Machine style in particular, more an amalgam of different factors largely of the 5 through to SOFTS era.
After that it’s time to move to more avant freaky ECM type sounds, then a funky soundtrack style number with Hugh Hopper type bass, then some gentle Latino experimentation (hints of some Egberto Gismonti I think), high flying Phil Manzanera territory with the title track, and then – totally out of the blue – we get a sleazy laid-back almost reggae number! After that, it’s time for the big one: Expergefactor (which, kind of means “Rude Awakening”), aptly opening with a moment of mad chaos of blurting saxophone and other instruments, before shifting somewhere close to more freeform realms of Barre Philips and Terje Rypdal for a while, then heading to “no wave” Bill Laswell territory and many other places. It amounts to quite a jumbled mixture that’s quite a lot to take in. As such, this is a much challenging and diverse album than LAIK TORS, and one that’s not so immediate. Whether that makes it better or not is up to the listener, of course!
Alan Freeman, AUDION
Das Rad is a band from Sheffield. Nick Robinson, Martin Archer, and Steve Dinsdale, otherwise known as members of the projects Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere and Combat Astronomy, on the new album called “Veer” strengthen their sound with the presence of bassist Jon Short. This very experimental and at the same time hypnotic story will take you through many series of sounds that will definitely play with your brain. This album represents a forge of ideas, styles, compositional and executive techniques that amalgamate in such an original way as to be unique. This album almost miraculously achieves an enviable balance between form and disintegration, coining a language that is neither jazz nor rock, nor pure avant-garde, but rather a very personal fusion of all these styles.
Intricate jazz themes are delivered by the sax and rhythm section and they go through a considerable number of variations and lines and create an impressive gallery of instrumental interventions. The repetitive sequences of the rhythm section really give a dose of tension and anticipation of what will happen next. We are faced with pieces of extremely complex and articulated music. The compositions are sometimes hypnotic, sometimes slightly schizophrenic, but never to the point of losing the sense of direction, given that they are flooded by a lot of influences, as well as with many chains of movements of experimental moments.
The music can be described as a multi-dimensional, modern skillful progressive jazz-rock with avant-grade elements that has an open horizon and embraces countless elements. The very concept and idea behind the album opens up the space for the instruments to build the moods and colors of the compositions, most often changing frequently and maintaining constant alertness. Musicians with their brilliant approach install a climate with shifting aspects, and they create many sequences that are presented as the glue in all compositions.
Jazz fusion, psychedelia, eclecticism with elements of quirky prog could be one of the main descriptions of this band and album because all the elements and styles mentioned above make the overall analysis complicated. One very brilliant thing is the way in which the band at certain moments separates in the compositions, and they all go to their own worlds, worlds in strange time signatures and sounds, which are sometimes almost devoid of melodies, only to finally reunite in a fantastic way in a complex sonic explosion.
To all this are added the electronic incursions that break out as if someone were continually trying to disturb the normal flow of our thoughts. The emotional level through compositions is capable of sudden and passionate outbursts, moments of profound tension and restlessness, as well as unexpected sweetness in evoking confused, distant emotions. Fantastic album.
The addition of bassist Jon Short to Das Rad‘s long-term trio of Nick Robinson, Martin Archer and Steve Dinsdale has lent an extra heft and low-end adventure to an already adventurous trio.
Although recently released, this album compiles work that dates back to 2020 and perhaps because of that runs an absolute gamut of styles and sounds, constantly switching positions, leading the listener astray and dropping hints that don’t always come to fruition and instead end up far from home.
All players bar Jon are credited with the extremely vague “keys”, so as well as the strength and density one might expect from players of this ilk, there is much mysterious and external stimuli that fill in any resultant gaps and prompting excrescent sidelines that move focus away from the main event.
Whatever the album contains though, it is hard to describe it as jazz; there is much more of a cool European feel to the sly hypnotic bass groove of opener “Lutraphobia”. Why anyone could fear otters, I have no idea; but the swing of the track jars with the sticky, sleazy sax and guitar. There is an angry sort of energy in the guitar and that is palpable throughout the album, as if Nick is tired of pressing the point home where as Martin’s woodwind is generally lighter, often dropping hints to the listener and leading them into a fruitless search. Meanwhile the rhythm section forges its own muscular, sharp shapes.
It is more about concocting an atmosphere than adhering to anything like guidelines; so the shadowy, barely contained mass of action that is “Bergen Cross” with its full kit work out and distorted ghost of Jon Lord keyboard runs melts into the brooding abstraction of “Confiture”. Tones combine for a thick fug that binds the listener, ensnaring with slow moving force; a gaggle of clarinet, a surge of disparate noise, all knitting together like a web around the listener, the looseness and surge of the sax tearing up the sky.
Some of it really broods with a sinister edge, prowling, searching in dark corners, gradually upping tempo until the pursuit is in full flight, querulous keys abetting malignant guitar. At other points, there is an airy lightness, with the pressure dropping and a clear sunrise sound appearing, turning its back on the night. The flute on “Farfalla” adds to a kind of sylvan fantasy with typewriter and radio lending a surreal edge.
Incredibly, before the sprawling song suite “Expergefactor” takes hold of proceedings, the quartet takes a dash through a heavy ’80s influenced splurge of post-punk, the bass as wilful as you would want and the shards of guitar, sprinkling in your hair and also the reggae-ish swagger of “Kingdom Fall”, airy with echo that winks towards dub, but provides much space for surf-influenced guitar.
To be honest, the album would be satisfying if it ended there; but the six-part finale really takes all the ideas already provided and slows them down, intensifying them, stitching them together and then unfurling them with the added confusion of Peter Rophone‘s treated voices, hidden insinuating whispers and random, restless outbursts. It is slow, it simmers, working at tangents, players feeling their way in, allowing time to take its toll, the tension and strength of guitar and bass offset by the flightier woodwind and the steady percussive precision.
At points it flirts with metal, but is far too fluid and changeable to stay for long, instead switching tack and looking down the long meandering road towards prog. Is it prog? Well, it is certainly progressive in ideas and outlook; but it is always restless and you know that momentum is in the back of their minds. At one point Peter’s voice echoes a train whistle, but a tranquil garden will ever be round the corner; and although some distant landmarks are possibly familiar, the scenery is in constant flux, its changes eventually rendering you lost and inevitably in their power.
Working as a quartet adds further strength to an already impressive body of work and this might be Das Rad’s best yet. Let’s see how the next few years unfold.
Mr Olivetti – FREQ
For their fourth full length release since the band was formed in 2018, Das Rad has returned to basics with an expanded line up. Following on from two “lockdown” albums where the original trio worked mainly in their own studios, much of the basic tracking for Veer was played live. We also welcome bass guitarist Jon Short to the band for the first time, once again with a view on re-emphasizing live interaction in the music.
The showpiece is the 25 minute suite “Expergefactor,” which closes the album and which also features the extraordinary voice of Peter Rophone. But setting the scene for this finale, the preceding tracks variously revisit some stripped down Krautrock/Kosmiche based improv, virtuosic Jazz Rock, leftfield soundscaping and even (always tucked away somewhere in the music on previous albums) a short homage to the dubbed out sounds of Augustus Pablo.
Another Das Rad record where Krautrock grooves, extended arrangements, free improvisation and Electronic abstraction all meet in the creative centre of the sound.
Prog Rock Journal
Today we have a very special album to present: the fourth work of the British avant-jazz-progressive ensemble DAS RAD, the first as a quartet. The album in question is titled “Veer” and was released – as usual – by the Discus Music label on May 26. Members of the expanded DAS RAD lineup are Nick Robinson [guitars and keyboards], Martin Archer [winds, harmonica and keyboards], Jon Short [bass] and Steve Dinsdale [drums and keyboards]. After two albums produced during the pandemic era (“Adios Al Futuro” and “Laik Tors”, from the years 2020 and 2021, respectively) in which the musicians worked in their own individual studios, the group returned to work as on their self-titled debut album of the year 2018: working with a good number of tracks played live in the studio and creating additional pieces along the way. Short’s entry helped the group reshape their expressive musculature, which paid off for the refreshing interaction they had planned for this new album. Peter Rophone provides occasional vocals.
Of the first four tracks on the album, three of them last just under or just over 8 3/4 minutes: ‘Lutraphobia’, ‘Confiture’ and ‘We Too Shall Rule’. The first of these mentioned themes opens the repertoire with a lively groove and a frontally architectural swing that serves to focus the contributions of winds and guitar called to ornament the musical scheme in progress. It’s as if a lost jam of NEU has been recovered! (stage of the first two albums) and would have done a radical surgery with gadgets from the Gongian paradigm and others from the sonic workshop of HENRY COW. Some brief slowed down interludes are inserted to whip up the deconstructive chiribitas latent in the theme. As for ‘Confiture’, the ensemble sets out to explore deconstructive atmospheres in the middle of an atmosphere located between the nocturnal and the taciturn, flirting with the gloomy, but, in the end, settling in the arcane. Around the fifth-minute border, things light up a bit, but with the glare the expressive density also increases. ‘We Too Shall Rule’ establishes a sound picture of stately parsimony where the discourse of jazz-rock receives some doses of obscurantism typical of the tradition of the French-speaking RIO.
In the middle of them is ‘Bergen Cross’ (more specifically, it is the second theme of the repertoire). Its avant-progressive approach is handled with the incorporation of generous doses of psychedelic magic in the style of a cross between KING CRIMSON and SOFT WORKS, adding nuances of the old psychedelic avant-garde (a little of AGITATION FREE, another little of ASH RA TEMPEL). There’s a really fabulous keyboard solo near the end, which stimulates the gestation of the final climax; Also noteworthy is the consistently sophisticated swing armed by the drums, an essential anchor for the effective filling of spaces that concretizes the compositional scheme. ‘Farfalla’ is an affable piece at the same time bizarre, having as its central focus a lyrical warmth that would not have been out of place in an album of HAPPY THE MAN or HOWEVER. In turn, there are persistent surrealist ornaments that, ultimately, end up dissolving everything in a dreamlike haze where the mystical and the disturbing converge. An ethereal backwater with astonishingly nervous edges.
The sixth piece is precisely called ‘Veer’ and is characterized by partially retaking the joviality of the theme that opened the album and swapping it into something more tense by way of two successive strategies: a more pronounced roughness in the guitar riffs and the insertion of majestic keyboard arrangements. There is also an electrifying saxophone solo that crucially helps to concretize this renewing vigor. ‘Kingdom Fall’ is like a psychedelic reggae filtered through krautrocker airs under an elaborate costume on the nu-jazz loom. The lines of the winds float around while the gentle phrasings of the acoustic guitar provide resources of contemplative sobriety.
‘Expergefactor’ is the title of the suite of just over 25 1/4 minutes that closes the album, being its six parts respectively titled ‘Meadow Hell’, ‘The Void Above’, ‘Brabble’, ‘Evian’, ‘Island Of Stability’ and ‘Expergefactor’. It all begins with an enthusiastically neurotic chaos that somehow skills itself in showing more joy than anguish, but takes pleasure in wallowing in its own shocking vibrations. The next thing that emerges is an exercise in impressionist nuances dressed in chamber-rock under the direction of an avant-jazz strategy that focuses on expanded tones freely, with total serenity, like a moderately lit light that goes into an autumn forest to find something valuable that does not want to remain hidden.
In the last instances, there is a measured increase of exuberance in the interventions of the winds and the battery, which announces the arrival of a third section tremendously ceremonious. It plays with a slow tempo to support a contained musculature where jazz-rock reigns with a progressively psychedelic orientation. The uncontrolled looseness of the first section is already a distant memory; Now here operates a ceremoniously engineering tangle absorbed in its own agitations sprouted under martial surveillance. A new section focused on a serene minimalism brings us back the dreamy, this time, under a bucolic attire.
The evocative calm is an anticipatory oasis of the vitalistic gentleness conveyed by much of the next section: its august prelude in the style of a cross between the KING CRIMSON of the 1969-70 phase and the TANGERINE DREAM of the 1973-75 phase does not allow us to guess the display of jovial agility that is established as the central nucleus of the new section. Of course, there is an extensive intermediate marked by an enigmatic nebulosity that marks a wide contrast against the central body. The homonymous final section focuses on a synthesized capitalization of the most mysterious aspects of the suite, which is activated with a stately architecture that makes the patent density not overflow while imposing the sonic pattern. A special mention goes to the magnificent (albeit brief) guitar solo at the end.
All this was “Veer”, one of the most notable contributions to the avant-progressive production of the year 2023 from Great Britain. The people of DAS RAD have shown a lot with this new configuration of their instrumental logistics: they have done very well to continue with their journey of peculiar creativity in a 4X4 vehicle. Recommended at 400%!!
John Thurlow – Jazz In Britain
Once DAS RAD has been invented, things will move forward. With Veer (DISCUS 154CD) Nick Robinson – guitar, Steve Dinsdale (ex-Radio Massacre International) on drums and Martin Archer – Woodwind (all three also keys) have now even switched from three to four-wheeler, with Jon Short (who created chilling soundscapes with Deep Sky Divers and with Sheelanagig turned up fiddle folk) on bass guitar. The first thing I learn is that ‘Lutraphobia’ means the irrational fear of otters, how crazy is that? In addition, butterflies flutter with ‘Farfalle’, or noodles? How does that work together with ‘We Too Shall Rule’ and ‘Kingdom Fall’? Turn the “Not my King!” faction on the wheel? Can this be sweetened with ‘Confiture’? Or is this just another lie by the government? Is “Expergefactor” good as an alarm clock that brushes aside the bickering (‘Brabble’) between the ‘Meadow Hell’ and ‘The Void Above’, the dirty ‘Evian’ water, the myth of England as the ‘Island of Stability’?
Only Short’s bass pulse is stable, from which Archer as a colorful Woodwind plural and the anything but fearful sounding prog guitar let themselves be pulled in the keyboard wind. Das Rad, just as they wave the good old prog flag, fulfills all the criteria to make freak hearts beat faster. Averse to the demons of metal and any hysteria, jazz-rock psychedelic is the only true means to storm the brain with firestorms, droning and fluttering waves, with milling guitar, tickling, crashing, rattling beats, rumbling bass, roaring, chuckling reeds. As burning air. Through floods of keys, with heavy draught, growling bass, solemn style. Drifting, with fluttering flute, silvery strings, through booming torrents.
With a crisp 4/4 beat, sweeping keys, inverted arrow of time. Das Rad is rolling, old school rules. The false king rushes over soft Dub-Groove and delicate melodica. A hellish slump makes the air thin, only the bass still grounds the emptiness. Until another heavy groove hooks in, with blues harp, milling guitar and the bright voice of Peter Rophone. Birds are chirping, what could cloud the water? Avalon stands up to anything, with brass cheers, resilient harmony, ostinato, but not monomaniacal. The dream in front of my eyes, the wind at your back, grandiose and carried.
Rigobert Dittmann – BAD ALCHEMY
There are now four of them. Four wheels make more sense, especially on the fourth album. Or… are more stable. With Jon Short, you now have a permanent bass player. According to the band, the basis of this music, after two lockdown albums, was created live in the studio, i.e. with the right interaction of the four protagonists in the same place. In this form, one could now also perform live, which may happen in the near future. In addition, there were various other sound tracks recorded in the period 2020-23.
However, the concept has remained true despite the fourth man. Presumably, it can be implemented even better this way. The band says that “Veer” continues to be a mixture of ‘kosmiche based improv, virtuosic jazz rock, leftfield soundscaping … Krautrock Grooves, Extended Arrangements, Free Improvisation and Electronic Abstraction’. Yes, that fits.
A bit more earthy and rocky, just bass-heavy, the band is active here (which you can also hear in the first track), also a bit more jam-rocking and psychedelic-monotonous striding. The cutting howling, distorted crashing or floating reverberating electric guitar is usually at the center of the music, accompanied by the dynamic rhythm section and all kinds of accompaniment, electronically surging key patterns. In addition, there is a lot of blowers, which continues, sometimes brass rock honking, sometimes obliquely trotting, sometimes elegantly soloing, for a jazz-rock-Canterbury-like retro atmosphere. ‘Driving motorik music’, the short definition given by Archer and colleagues for the first album, can also be found here, or almost more than on the previous albums. The tones also float along in a leisurely to free-format manner, without a strong rhythm component. The whole thing sounds most like a retro-modern version of Soft Machine with an expressive electric guitarist.
With “Expergefactor” there is also a long track this time. Or, actually, it’s an extended suite in six parts. Here it is sometimes a bit more cosmic-floating, which then provides certain krautrock reminiscences (you can hear e.g. “The void above”), but they usually come in a more modern sound garb and jazzy dirty. In the suite there are also a few slanted vocal interludes and confused tape recordings, especially in “Evian”, and also a lot of Mellotron, e.g. in “Island of stability”, which could be described as a flawless, nicely edgy retro prog in places. Otherwise, there is also the one section higher sketched mix on the ear, whereby – as already indicated – free-format sound-floating can be seen a little more often than in the first seven numbers.
The title? Well, it just sounds like the German ‘vier’. Apparently, the verb ‘to veer’ is also used in England to describe the throwing away (or flight?) of a paper airplane. In any case, the instructions for building the ‘Veer Glider’ can be found on the formation’s website. What does that have to do with the album? No idea. Otherwise, on “Veer” we as listeners turn blithely in circles, as if on a colorfully vibrating sound carousel. All in all, I would say that “Veer” is the most rocking album of the project so far.
Achim Breiling – Babyblaue Seiten
This seems to be the fourth disc from Das Rad, British quartet which includes Discus founder Martin Archer. I hadn’t heard of the bassist before now although the drummer, Steve Dinsdale, can be found on a dozen discs from the Discus and Cuneiform labels (where he plays in Radio Massacre International). Das Rad is a sort of progressive quartet. Right from the opening of “Lutraphobia”, the electric guitar and sax(es) are up front and playing in rapturous harmonies over a fine somewhat funky, rocking groove which slows down to stopping before it pick right back up.
Guitarist Nick Robinson uses some effects (pedals) to get that strong proggish sustained tone sound which matches the layers of saxes just right, even taking an impressive, quick-tapping, note-bending solo in the last section. Mr. Archer is a fine producer and knows how to use the studio to get musicians or bands to sound focused and inspired. On “Bergen Cross”, Mr. Robinson’s Frippish guitars are layered as are Archer’s saxes.
The bassist and drummer sound like they’ve been playing together for a long while as they are consistently locked into their own grooves/rhythmic schemes. Mr. Robinson takes the first of several impressive guitar solos while the bassist interweaves his own web of lines.
The sound of this quartet is closer to mid-seventies British progressive than anything else. Both guitarist Nick Robinson and saxist Martin Archer are well schooled in this sound and hence, they use several layers of guitars, saxes & keyboards, seamlessly blending them into that older prog sound. Archer often puts his saxes through some devices to alter their sound which often works just right with Robinson’s varied guitar parts. The quartet at times has a King Crimson-ish sound but not nearly as dark. There are some unexpected magical moments going here as well: On “Farfalla”, the acoustic guitar, flute and watery keyboards makes this sound like a prog fairy tale.
Bassist Jon Short used to play in ambient projects and has a distinctive occasionally fretless sound on bass. The quartet get into a dub groove on “Kingdom Fall” and erupt forcefully on the “Expergefactor” suite. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought that this disc was recorded in the mid-1970’s. All that’s missing are those proglike vocals.For those of you who are still searching for contemporary progressive instrumental music, this is a fine treasure chest of delights.
Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery NYC
Veer is the 4th album of the Sheffield, UK based band DAS RAD, and on this new album they welcome new bassist JON SHORT to their line-up that further consists of MARTIN ARCHER (sax, woodwind, keys), STEVE DINSDALE (drums, keys), NICK ROBERTSON (guitar, keys, loops) and as guest on 1 song PETER ROPHONE (vocals). The band’s music is instrumental 70s progressive rock orientated, so this is a proggy adventure for sure, although you can also smell the 70s jazz and even some alternative rock influences here and there. Opener Lutraphobia is a real straight-ahead uptempo rocking tune that is perhaps the rockiest song ever released on DISCUS MUSIC. Great start and straight until the end this is an exciting progressive rock dominated album that has an own identity for sure. The guitarwork is upfront, but the sax of Martin is also present quite often, just to give it his freestyle-jazz touch. This is really a great album.
Gabor Kleinbloesem – STRUTTER’ZINE
Led by Discus boss Martin Archer, this quintet make a kind of exuberant avant-prog jazz, given extra heft on this occasion by new member Jon Short’s bass. the 26-minute 6-part suite Expergefactor is a suitably epic nod to their proggy roots.
Kevin Whitlock, JAZZWISE
The trio we already know (Martin Archer on sax, Nick Robinson on guitars, Steve Dinsdale on drums) has recently been joined by bassist Jon Short, making the group’s sound even more robust from the beginning of the album, yet also more capable of adapting to other musical possibilities. The album is conceived in such a way as to present at the beginning (Lutraphobia) an intense and controlled energy, which gradually develops. It expands, in fact, into more “atmospheric” situations (Bergen Cross, (Configure) and psychedelic and “sylvan” explorations (We too shall rule, Farfalla), to then resume a tense and enveloping rhythmic scansion (Veer) and relax into a darker upbeat movement (Kingom fall), before concluding with the long suite Expergefactor, divided into 6 movements. Going through phases of gloom that paint undesirable scenarios to expressions of liveliness or at least of conviction and solidity, the album expresses a fusion between genres (progressive, psychdelia, improv, post-punk) which makes the album attractive and more interesting than other works, perhaps more monolithically vigorous, but less articulated.