The Necks - Three Music Album Reviews

More than 30 years into their career, the Australian experimental trio can still make the mundane feel miraculous. 

The Australian trio The Necks has spent over 30 years perfecting a strange sense of locomotion. Drawing on the intersecting traditions of jazz, improvisation, and ambient music, they’ve crafted an ultra-minimal music so obsessed with repetition it can feel like it’s standing still. Bassist Lloyd Swanton prefers a road-trip metaphor: Moving at high speed through a vast, unchanging landscape, it’s hard to notice the moment-to-moment differences in your surroundings. “But then you concentrate on something else for half an hour,” Swanton explains, “And when you look up you realize things have changed completely.” Their music makes the case for the virtues of patience and stillness as a listener. You can’t know exactly when or where the moments of novelty will come from, but there is a pleasure in knowing that they will eventually, and learning to love your surroundings until then.

Three—a triptych of 20-plus minute tracks—does nothing to alter their approach. It is slow, winding, and meditative, composed almost entirely of piano, bass, and drums, and builds outwards from minimal meanderings to overgrown thickets of instrumentation. Though there are instrumental flourishes here and there—a bit of feedback, a synthesizer, and an organ or two—relative to the mutant-rock squalls of 2018’s Body, this is more familiar territory for the band.

The closing track “Further” is in a lot of ways the prototypical Necks piece. It’s luxuriantly arranged, built around Chris Abrahams’ weightless piano lines that increase in density and intensity as the track goes on. There’s no post-rock catharsis or free-jazz climax, just a slow journey through parts unknown. It unfolds so gradually and delicately that you hardly notice that they eventually abandon the piano for the celestial hum of an organ, and then slowly phase both ideas together, into an arrangement more vibrant than you would have thought possible at the track’s plodding outset. Swanton has said that this track was a self-conscious attempt at evoking the band’s earlier albums, but each added layer and slow change still feels like an accident of physics more than any conscious choice.

The record’s other two pieces, though different in tone, are united in approach. “Bloom” is more active, tense with snowballing momentum and potential energy. “Lovelock,” by contrast, is more sparse and distant, suffused with grief for the band’s friend Damien Lovelock of the band the Celibate Rifles, who died in 2019. Each is a slight variation on the themes that the band has explored over the course of their career, and it’s easy to look down on such single-mindedness. But when you get 15 minutes deep into one of these pieces and realize that a few aimless-feeling piano lines have suddenly coalesced into an impossibly lush environment, you can see why they’ve spent so long pursuing the same ideas. They’ve developed the ability to make the mundane feel miraculous.


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The Necks - Three Music Album Reviews The Necks - Three Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Friday, April 10, 2020 Rating:

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