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Dead Neanderthals - Prime [Gaffer Records - 2014]

Dead Neanderthals are a Dutch duo that play high an amazingly intense and relentless form of sound that blurs the boundary between harsh noise and free jazz (which they refer to as "heavy jazz").  Their new LP "Prime" came out on Gaffer Records in 2014.

While the sounds are generated entirely by drums and saxophone, they have a layered impenetrability and constant overwhelming density that is similar to many noise albums.  They aren't the first band like this; Borbetomagus comes to mind, and more recently an ensemble called Burning Tree. 

Their sound can be differentiated from the rest of jazz and rock in that this band sounds like they attempting to play at the absolute highest level of energy at every single second, expelling as much energy and force into each rapid volley of notes as possible.  To sustain this for an entire unbroken 40 minute recording is only possible through unbelievable stamina.  Their goal of absolute physical exhaustion seems more important than what is actually played.

I imagine the endorphin rush at the end of playing in such a way would be truly amazing like the best of work outs, and in this way, I completely understand what this band is going for.  For the sheer consistent level of energy put out, it is a listenable and notable recording.  Its total non-repetitive impenetrability and abstract nature should be perfect brainfood for openminded fans of free jazz and harsh noise that do not require rhythmic or tonal structure in any traditional sense.  The constant texture is womb-like for those who enjoy distorted timbres; the album is quite well produced.

The musicians are clearly giving little conscious thought to the individual notes and noises as they honk and blast frantically away, aren't playing off each other in any kind of traditional sense, but as they are very talented and skilled players, many interesting figures and variations emerge from the chaos.  The bellowing scalar eruptions of the baritone saxophone are pleasing to me because of the massive, metallic chamber of the instrument itself, and the rickety squeals it emits when misused. Deep and dynamic acoustic instrument tones, though abrasive, make the album for me.

It could be said to be a mass of intentionally arrhythmic noise with scattered fragments of ideas riddled throughout it.  For its unstructured brutality, it will likely turn many off, though these musicians are undoubtedly more than skilled enough to play more accessible forms of music.  If you've always enjoyed the reckless violent wailing of a saxophone for its own sake, perhaps this album is for you.  It is certainly a cathartic release for the musicians, who must be dripping sweat by the end, and by logic, it could be a release for you, too.  I can't fault its purity of purpose and execution.

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Josh Landry
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