Monday, January 28, 2013
Dead Neanderthals - "Polaris" (2013) [Utech]
Well, this is different.
Dead Neanderthals is an unusual group in the world of "avant garde" and "free" jazz: billing themselves as the "New Wave of Dutch Heavy Jazz" (the metalheads here will get the reference), Dead Neanderthals have in the past been something of a less contrived Shining (Norway) with more of a Darkthrone feel to it. If you've noticed that I'm sitting here and talking about metal bands, you're getting an idea of what's going on here.
For a sax/drums duo, Dead Neanderthals have no shame about their love for metal. Hell, in one of the baffling brief clips of the recording of Polaris (cough cough--and incidentally, the clips identified the album title as "The Ace of Spades"), "R"--the drummer--can be seen sporting the classic Bathory shirt. The A side of their last 10", Jazzhammer, is built around ten minutes of blast beats. The caveman drums from 2010's eponymous recording through to Jazzhammer/Stomanngalskap create a brutally punk/metal space for layered, effected saxophone.
So when I put on my lovely preview of "Polaris," I was astounded to find something only ever-so-slightly more punk than, say, the Frank Wright/Muhammed Ali duo or the David S. Ware/Rashied Ali duo I listened to today (what? I'm on a kick). The blasts are only slightly more direct (one tempo, one dynamic) than any-album-Sunny-Murray-played-on, and "O" (tenor saxophone this time) has dropped the ZU/Shining-esque sound fields for the sort of fluid, rough bursts I expect from, well, a free jazz player.
Is this what they wanted to do all along and just now matured to? Did they feel they'd accomplished their goal and it was time to move on? Is this a whim? Did Lasse Marhaug (mastering) and/or Keith Utech somehow talk them into this? I don't know. It's refreshing, certainly, and it's a solid sax/drums duo record created by a well-bonded pair. It does not sound like the first outing of some kids with Bathory shirts and a saxophone, nor is it a half-step from hardcore punk like the delightful "V-Shaped Position" of 2011.
So, it's an instance I like of one of my favorite musical formats. I still haven't adjusted enough to listen to it without my mind filling with questions, but I fully intend to keep trying.