Dead Neanderthals Hypnotize with Their Latest Collaboration (Video Debut + Interview)
Dead Neanderthals are more nucleus than band. Nominally a Dutch free-jazz outfit, the two-piece's discography is dizzying in size and complexity, pulling in everyone from Aaron Turner (Sumac, ex-Isis [the band]) to UK noisemakers Sly and the Family Drone. Their music likewise runs the gamut from Zornian jazzgrind explosions such as Rat Licker to Kubrickian hauntings à la The Depths. It's only fitting that their latest effort IXXO is another excursion into fresh musical space, consisting as it does of twenty minutes of driving, ascending krautrock.
"You'd never guess it from our back catalog, but we've never done too much improvising," drummer René Aquarius says. "For IXXO, it's a little more complicated." The record, like many of Dead Neanderthals' other releases, is a collaboration, this time with Aafke Romeijn and Jonge Woudloper. "Our first idea was a really defined drone for them to improvise over. In the end, that's still what it is."
Given their recent album's aggression, IXXO may come as a surprise to some listeners. The band, for their part, hasn't been spending hours with Neu! on repeat, either. Both members go deep on extreme music—saxophonist Otto Kokke has spent a lot of time exploring drone recently; meanwhile, drummer René has been listening to a lot of metal and says with a laugh that he "hope[s] the crappy black metal production values end up in Dead Neanderthals." For all this eclecticism and evident humor, IXXO is lush, serious and hypnotic. It's characterized by slow builds and spacey chords over a steady, propulsive beat, and save for fills a brief shift, it maintains its pace across all 20 minutes.
We've got a full stream and video of IXXO below. The album is available now on vinyl and digital via Bandcamp April 22.
The album was recorded as a live set at Roadburn, with Romeijn and Jonge Woudloper improvising over Aquarius and Kokke's gridwork. The set's color-block aesthetics fit nicely with the track's burned-out modernism. Like krautrock, IXXO seems to embody a sort of self-aware, stoic determination to make progress even against a background of industrial ruin.
Dead Neanderthals have a unique ability to change properties when working with other artists. However, the pandemic put a halt to live collabs. The pair was able to weather COVID to some degree the pandemic by spacing out and working electronically, but with concerts returning, they're planning bombastic collaborative sets at this year's Roadburn with acts like Dutch black metallers Solar Temple. They're also working on "a massive, nine-people-on-stage pounding rock affair, which will close the festival."
How does a band like this shift modes so effortlessly? "[We just] go down different avenues and don't worry too much on how it will end up. We're confident that it will sound like Dead Neanderthals when both of us are involved." Kokke and Aquarius continue to rehearse weekly, the nucleus testing out new ideas to bring to their next musical chain reaction.
IXXO releases April 22nd.