Dead Neanderthals – Prime (2014)

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You might ask yourself what happens when you put three talented musicians in a studio with no set riffs, no written music and let them go free. Well, Prime might just be the answer.

Dead Neanderthals is a Dutch-based band consisting of Otto Kokke on sax and Rene Aquarius on drums. They have released four albums to date and Prime, their latest, sees them augmented with by the stunning talent of sax player Colin Webster, creating a double sax and drum trio.

Available as an LP and download, Prime is a single piece. For the full 40 minutes, the trio go at each other like a freight train. There are connotations of John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders in 1966, along with every screaming out-sax duo that’s come since like Albert Ayler and Frank Wright or Peter Brötzmann and Mats Gustafsson. However, any real attempt at comparison is lost because of the uniqueness of the sounds and the pervading, determining presence of Aquarius who pushes the sax players to the brink with explosive, unrelenting drums.

Prime opens with a screaming entry by sax underpinned by sustained cymbalic shattering from the drums. The drums keep building, pushing the saxes into ever more frenetic screeching, ear-shattering frenzy- which is just what this album is about really.

For over 20 minutes there is no let up- the freight train just keeps on coming. It is a gorgeous, uninterrupted conversation between the instruments, the drums acting like some kind of manic referee between the two competing saxes who hammer the music out between them. The nearest thing to a solo happens around the 21-minute mark when the saxes establish a continuous undercurrent of sound whilst the drums perform their own short piece of dialogue. Then, the conversation continues with all 3 players driving, pushing and screeching towards mayhem – but not quite. All through Prime, there is a sense of control, of the players having some idea where this noisy conversation is taking them. These musicians can read each other and react with infinitesimally sublime timing.

Prime has connotations of Charlie Parker at his most experimental; Ayler, Brötzmann and Sanders are there in spirit, too, but the fact is these musicians have made an album which is totally their own — and, although there are definite nods to other great players, there is a unique spirit at work here.

It is an album of broiling menace, screeching mayhem and a wake-up call to anyone who thought free jazz was a dying art. These musicians bring a youthful enthusiasm for free playing which is needed, and they prove it is a growing, not a dying genre.

Right the way through the music is relentless, atonal, anarchic and unmelodious — a broiling froth of sound. It builds and builds and, then, it simply stops! The saying goes, “always leave them wanting more,” Well, a listen to this, and you’ll get the picture.

‘Prime’ is due October 10, 2014 via Gaffer Records. Visit the Dead Neanderthals’ website or Bandcamp page for more information and music.

Sammy Stein

Sammy Stein

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Sammy Stein
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