Dead Neanderthals – The Depths

René Aquarius – drums
Otto Kokke – saxophone

Surface
Descent
Glimpse
Decompression
(28:10)

Improvisation relies on communication. Any changes to how musicians communicate will cause changes in the resulting music – stands to reason. So what happens when you take a sax’n’drums duo and place them at either end of a 100-metre concrete tunnel? This…

 

So, the ingredients are simple, the location unique, the results… slow-paced, spacious conversations; instant compositions that draw you down into glassy darkness and unyielding pressure. It’s kind of like a headache but in a good way, a presence in the head that you just can’t shake off, overlaying every perception…

We start at the Surface, Aquarius’ kettle-like drums boom and hoom while Kokke’s sax adopts a kind of docking ship persona with sharp, repeated stabs of welcome and warning. The drums swell and surge as longer horn lines are sent down the tube. Tension increases as Descent taps into our Hollywood-programmed fear of the water. As Aquarius stirs the depths, Kokke toys with the classic two-not Jaws riff. You start to wonder what’s down there. You know that saxophone is circling, eyeing your skinny thrashing legs…

Glimpse? A glimpse of what, exactly? Another two-note riff but less threatening now. The sax is more questing, and the drums punctuate, chopping time and darkness into a more easily grasped narrative. There’s still a sense of foreboding but hey, look around, this is fun, a whole new world to explore… And then Decompression. More lyrical than what’s gone before, this is a slow ascent, towards the light. Adventure over? Not necessarily, what’s that knocking? We’re heading for the surface and safety but whatever’s out there, whatever we glimpsed, it’s following us all the way…

 

After the recent “Molar Wrench” with Sly & The Family Drone, this outing is less brain-melting intensity and more a masterclass in slow-build tension, with a couple of tongue-in-cheek moments for spice. Subtly and relentlessly unnerving.

“The Depths” is available on CD and download from Bandcamp.

For a look behind the making of “The Depths”, check out this short documentary by Dick van Aalst: