July 16, 2012, Maastricht, The Landbouwbelang
If the furore surrounding the recent plans to close down Maastricht’s main venue (the Muziekgeiterij) are anything to go by, it seems the city’s live music scene is in a state of flux at the moment, and currently facing a very uncertain future. All of which makes it all the more heartening to see two bands so dedicated to pushing the musical envelope gracing Maastricht's Landbouwbelang with their presence tonight, even if the modestly sized crowd doesn’t seem to reflect the calibre of these two duos.
Dead Neanderthals take to the stage first, and pound out the entirety of their latest record, ‘Jazzhammer / Stormannsgalskap’. Watching this band grow from the righteous Naked City worship of their first record through to the convention defying madness of their latest has been an absolute pleasure, and tonight the band are on fine form, careening through an ecstatic, sweat drenched aural endurance test with barely a pause for breath. If for some reason it hasn’t already become apparent whilst listening at home, witnessing the duo in the flesh should really hammer home how great this record is, and also how utterly unequipped our current musical vocabulary is to try and deal with it. Sure, one could liken it to the harsh, enveloping aural assault of noise colliding with the pummelling battery of black metal, all the while held together by the ‘enlightenment-through-repetition’ ethos of krautrock and face melting intensity of grindcore, but this somehow feels like clutching at straws, desperately clinging to familiar (no matter how esoteric) generic concepts in an attempt to make sense of this deranged sonic attack. This is stark, brutal terrain that extreme music in general has been hinting at for some time now, and the Neanderthals are two of the few who have ventured into this territory and lived to tell the tale. Almost transcendental in their extremity, the two pieces fuse together to form a monolithic vibrational battering ram, steadily trepanning its way into your skull until the perceived barrier between sound and self seems like some long forgotten whim of fancy and all that’s left is to whole heartedly embrace the sheer fucking chaos that surrounds you. Once the pair eventually bring the insanity to an end, the squealing sax feedback still ringing through the air, it takes a while to readjust. Once you do, you may find the hyperactive dubstep being pumped into the building afterwards seems like mere child’s play by comparison. It’ll be fascinating to see where the band takes it from here; their recent recording ‘Black Ritual 1’ for the 3voor12 Gelderland Vierdaagse compilation finds the pair venturing into darker, more ritualistic sounds but really, after this display of sensory devastation, it seems like anything is possible.
Following this all-out musical blitzkrieg is an unenviable task, but London’s Gum Takes Tooth are more than up to the challenge. The two-piece’s innovative, feral jams are some of the most startling to blossom out of the UK in recent years, and the pair seem to be tightly in tune with one another tonight. Jussi Brightmore comes across like a mixture of some kind of shamanic priest and that dude you always see at free parties who appears to have ingested every hallucinogen known to man and yet is still somehow more lucid and coherent than any authority figure you’ve ever encountered, commanding an arsenal of brain melting sounds whilst delivering a series of frenetic yelps and ethereal, trance inducing chants. His untamed emanations are anchored in place by Thomas Fuglesang’s impressive drumming, emphasising the tribal nature of the pair’s sound with drawn out rhythmic meditations that build into catastrophic explosions of physical force. Once again, trying to pin this sound down with conventional generic descriptions seems to be a thankless task. There are elements of metal, noise, various forms of electronica, and even musique-concrete that lurk within the band’s auricular stew, but it feels as though we’re being offered a glimpse into the almost unobtainable nexus that all music must stem from - the primordial ooze from which faintly familiar yet exhilaratingly unknown sounds bubble out of, and evaporate before they are able to take on a form we can easily categorize. What’s surprising is how danceable these frighteningly inventive sounds are, sending many of the assembled throng into gleeful spasms of compliance. To top it all off, the band invite Dead Neanderthals’ sax warrior Otto Kokke onstage for their thrilling finale, a triumphant improvisation that sees Otto’s deep, resonant sax drone acting as a Launchpad for the pair to blast off into the nether regions of sound, providing a fittingly climactic finish to a stellar set.
All in all, this was a fine showing from two of today’s most exciting experimental acts. Watching them both weave together a high octane hallucinogenic headspace for the audience to fully lose themselves within acted as a welcome reminder of just how vast the spectrum of musical expression is, and how little of it we have already come to explore. If Maastricht wants to take its bid for cultural capital seriously, this is exactly the kind of artistic venture it needs more of. Missed it? Missed out…