The Necks

Northern Spy NS 104

After three decades in a constant configuration, it’s not inaccurate to say that the sound of Australian trio The Necks is established – one hour of free improvisations that combine Mesmer and mastery. What distinguishes each session though is how the three – keyboardist Chris Abrahams, bassist Lloyd Swanton and percussionist Tony Buck – almost clandestinely introduce novel elements into the accepted equation, making discs like this one whose sound is very familiar yet subtly distinct.

For instance, the first third of “Body” is studded with expected Necks’ tropes, with a repeated chromatic ostinato created by Swanton’s bass thumps, Buck’s continuous cymbal clanks and Abrahams’ piano exposition which combines tremolo pacing with upwards and downwards theme variations. Nestling among the sonic incursion though are adumbrated organ wisps, also played by Abrahams, which set up the next section. Suddenly the interface shatters as a sequence of organ pumps lines up with grinding near-Rock-like piano patterns. Equal resolutions from Buck’s foot-stomping backbeat and Swanton’s sturdy pacing are joined by a mini guitar rave-up from a double-tracked Buck who continues drumming. Reaching a mid-point crescendo, the resulting sweeping drone is altered via cymbal coloration and drum ruffs until the narrative relaxes into diminished keyboard echoes backed by bell ringing. An elongated coda, still paced by Swanton’s string thrusts and Abrahams’ low-frequency keyboard sparkles, avoid funereal pacing but emphasize the fundamental rhythm which has been present throughout.

Flexible, nonchalant and ingenious at the same time Body is another significant addition to the corpus of work that originally growing from the Necks musical exoskeleton.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Body

Personnel: Chris Abrahams (piano and keyboards); Lloyd Swanton (bass) and Tony Buck (drums, percussion and guitar)