THE NECKS: Mindset (ReR Megacorp)


Posted on Nov 16th 2011 01:33 am

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The Necks: Mindset

ReR Megacorp 2011
02 Tracks. 43mins24secs

Amazon UK: CD | LP US: CD | LP Boomkat: CD | LP

For well over twenty years, Australian trio The Necks have carved a truly individual groove for themselves, refining it year after year on record, this is their sixteenth, and through their live performances. Formed in Sydney by Chris Abrahams (piano, Hammond organ), Lloyd Swanton (bass guitar, double bass) and Tony Buck (drums, percussions, electric guitar) toward the end of the eighties, the trio are renowned for their lengthy exploratory improvisations on stage, which can last for up to an hour at a time, and have used improvisation extensively on record too, often applying a similar dynamic to their studio work as they do to their live shows. Their first album, Sex, released in 1989, established the template for pretty much every single Necks album since; comprising just one improvised track clocking at just under an hour, it showcased the work of a then already very tight unit where all three members contributed equally to the performance. This has been the strength of the band ever since, and has guaranteed that, like their music, their audience has grown slowly but steadily over the years.

Coming two years on from their last outing, Silverwater, Mindset is an unusually short record for The Necks, barely scraping over the forty minute mark. The album features two radically different pieces, each taking on a particular aspect of the trio’s work and developing it over its whole course. Unlike many of their fully expanded hour-long experimentations, Rum Jungle kicks off pretty much from the opening bar, lead at first by Buck and Swanton who build the rhythmic ground upon which Abrahams builds up a dizzying sequence, starting with thunderous low end rumbles upon which he adds shimmering mid-to-high-range motifs, which, while not exactly equating to a melodic theme in any conventional way, are intensely musical nonetheless.

There is, in appearance, nothing subtle about such a meaty sonic feast, and the trio never once alter their course drastically, but The Necks are too much of a clever bunch to get stuck in a groove, and close listen reveals slight alterations in the flow of Abrahams’s intense piano layers, which almost imperceptibly make way to waves of Hammond organ in the latter part of the piece. The second half also sees Swanton apply stronger double bass patterns, whilst the percussions become progressively more intricate and bulky.

Daylight is, by contrast, a much more subtle and quiet piece. Here, Abrahams’s piano often sounds like rain drops falling on a bed of random percussions and electronics, tainted by the repetitive dry thud of a low-end piano note. Slowly, the formation inject some momentum to the piece as Swanton and Buck progressively bring in more concrete components. Here again, the template set up early on serves for the whole piece, but added elements, from the drums, resolutely kept toward the back of the spectrum, and Hammond organ which radiates warm pulses just below the surface to the forever more tightly woven mesh of percussions, give the piece more definition as it develops.

Having improvised together for the best part of twenty-five years, Chris Abrahams, Lloyd Swanton and Tony Buck are parts of an incredibly well oiled machine with a sound all of its own. On this album, they show contrasting sides of their work which often occupy different sections of their improvisations. Here though, they are purposely detached from each other, and placed in a different order to that they would normal follow, with the more elaborate and layered sequence appearing first, the more subtle and introspective part coming second. This shows how, despite its sprawling aspect, their music is in fact modular and tends to follow clearly established patterns. This however never alters the enjoyment of the record, and it actually gives a different insight into the trio’s work which makes it a totally fascinating addition to their already vast and impressive body of work.


The Necks | ReR Megacorp
Amazon UK: CD | LP US: CD | LP Boomkat: CD | LP

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